Child abuse reports dropping in La Crosse County, but experts say that’s not necessarily a good thing

From 2019-2020, reported child abuse cases dropped 19 percent in La Crosse County, and about 25 percent statewide

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Child abuse reports in La Crosse County and statewide are dropping.

But experts say that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Usually, the safest place to be from getting sick is at home, but home has been the opposite of safe for some children in our community.

“When we look at child abuse reports going down, a lot of it is because kids are not safer at home,” Family & Children’s Center development director Jamie Korn said.

Many kids have had to socially isolate during COVID.

“A lot of children aren’t being seen by people that they would normally interact with,” Korn said.

That includes a child’s friends, school teachers, counselors, or daycare providers.

“And when children are just at home, we don’t have as many eyes on a child to be able to notice the types of behaviors that are happening,” Korn said.

In the last two years, Korn says reported child abuse cases have dropped 19 percent in La Crosse County.

“Child abuse in and of itself is an under-reported crime,” Korn said.

According to AP, there was about a 25 percent decline in reported child abuse cases statewide during that same time span.

“Our victims have had to wait longer due to COVID because of the shut down of the judicial system,” Korn said.

That is delaying justice for some kids, whose cases require a jury trial.

“That is where some of our cases have stayed open longer because we’re waiting to do that in-person,” CASA for Kids program director Jessie Fortuna said.

Fortuna says taking kids away from their parents.. is a last resort.

“Our primary goal is always reunification with parents,” Fortuna said. “And we try to work towards that.”

The goal for local advocates is to prevent abuse from taking place, which is why Korn says if something seems wrong, report it.

“Even if you suspect that there is somebody being abused, take it seriously,” Korn said.

Nobody wants to see any child being abused.

“But it does happen in our community,” Korn said.

But she says more kids can be safe at home again if we all pay attention and address the need together.

Korn says the Family & Children’s Center has not suspended any of its services since the pandemic started. It mostly works with sexual abuse survivors.

About one in 10 children are victims of sexual abuse by the time they’re 18 years old.