The playgrounds are empty, as are the schools.
Children are now stuck in their homes, and in some cases it’s not safe.
“Is it a fear to go out with the virus going on? Absolutely. But in the long run we were hired to do a job. We were hired to make sure the children are safe in their homes, in their environment,” said Orian Shortt, a child protective s pecialist.
These two child protective specialists are following up on complaints of child abuse — they are part of the emergency service unit, and often see the most severe cases of neglect and abuse across the city.
“The volume has definitely changed with the cases. It shifted more to how the summer is usually ran. Usually we get four cases, five cases in a night, sometimes eight cases in a night. Now we’re seeing one, two cases as opposed to before,” said Sholakunmi Olukogbon, Child Protective Specialist.
Officials say those numbers fluctuate. But their job is now especially difficult — trying to protect children in the midst of a pandemic.
"In most cases, what we do try to do is go to the home and have the family bring the children to the door so we can do the visual at the door, and later like after we see the children we will try to make a phone contact and try to interview the family that way so there is less contact between us,” said Shortt.
"It is very challenging, I think all of us in health care and human services are challenged to carry out our responsibilities under circumstances that none of us could have envisioned even a month ago and we’ve had to adapt to that,” said David Hansel, Commissioner for Administrator for Children Services.
The numbers aren’t in yet.
“You have reached the New York State child abuse and maltreatment hotline,"
But sources say complaints to the state child abuse hotline are down— perhaps that’s because adults like teachers and day care workers who often report abuse are now not seeing kids.
The city is also now less likely to be in court.
“Yes of course, because reports are down initially. Yes, I think the number of cases we are filing in court and taking that emergency action has come down as a result of the pandemic,” said Hansel.
Is that concerning?
“It’s not necessarily concerning but as I say, we want to make sure all children are safe. That’s why we are working very closely with all the other folks and systems that have eyes on children to make sure if they see anything of concern they report it to the state hotline so we can initiative investigation,” he added.
There are far fewer eyes on those children in the age of coronavirus.
“So, if you believe that it takes a village to raise a child, which I do, and the more adults with hands and eyes on the children in our community the better, what happens when all the doors in the village are shut and there is no ability for that additional oversight and care to be provided by trusted adults in our community?” asked Karen Freedman, Lawyers For Children.
For now it might not be up to a village — it’s up to them.