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From the Imprint–National data has made clear that in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, calls to abuse and neglect hotlines plummeted in many states, and almost every system in the nation saw a decrease in entries to foster care.

But some child welfare leaders and researchers are still skeptical about whether actual incidents of abuse and neglect followed that same downward trajectory.

“I am definitely open to the idea that child maltreatment didn’t change at all. I would be surprised if it declined,” said Sarah Anne Font, a Pennsylvania State University associate professor of sociology.

Others find no reason to believe that the early social isolation of the pandemic led to unseen harm to children.

Dr. Robert Sege of Tufts Medical Center and Tufts Children’s Hospital said he challenged his colleagues to consider, “What if we said maltreatment really did go down? That points to things we can do much more effectively as a field to reduce child abuse. We need to consider the possibility of success.

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