PEI

Child protection reports on P.E.I. climb despite fewer eyes amid COVID

The number of child protection reports on the Island are climbing despite there being far fewer eyes on children, according to P.E.I. Child Protection Services.

'We can’t respond unless we get the information from the public letting us know there are concerns'

'We lost a large majority of our report sources,' says Kelly Peck, the provincial manager for Child Protection on P.E.I. (Shutterstock / Vasileios Karafil)

The number of child protection reports on the Island is climbing despite there being fewer eyes on children, according to P.E.I. Child Protection Services.

"For any family, the pandemic has had additional stressors but some families have been affected by it more than others," said Kelly Peck, the provincial manager for Child Protection on P.E.I.

"I think that has been certainly one of the causes of our numbers going back up again even without our regular report sources having access to children."

Up to 70 per cent of cases in the province are typically reported by those involved with children daily, for example coaches or teachers. Peck said when COVID-19 restrictions forced people into their homes, reports dropped by around 30 per cent.

But now, they're even slightly higher than before schools closed their doors.

If we don't have adults looking out for them, it does become a problem.​​​​​- Kelly Peck, P.E.I. Provincial Manager for Child Protection 

"We're getting reports of child protection concerns with more immediacy," said Peck. "We are seeing more domestic violence. We are seeing some addiction relapses and increased mental health concerns."

"We're trying to respond to that as best we can. But again we can't respond unless we get the information from the public letting us know there are concerns in the home."

Legal responsibility

Legally, Islanders are required to report any concerns about the safety and welfare of a child to Child Protection Services. This can include suspicions about neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence and emotional harm.

Peck said all reports are confidential and there "wouldn't be any blame or fault if people got information incorrect."

"I really hope that Islanders take the time to be aware of what's around them and not, you know, not think someone else may report if they see something," said Peck.

"We'd rather get a report from three people on the same concern or incident than not receive it at all."

'I hope that everyone will want what's best for Island children and make sure that they’re safe,' says Peck. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC)

Between April 2019 and April 2020, Child Protection Services received about 3,200 reports. Of those, Peck said less than two per cent of children had to be removed from the home.

"We do everything we can to keep children in their home if we can do so safely and work with the parents and the family to find support services that will empower them."

With more oversight from teachers, Peck said she is looking forward to having kids back in the classroom. And while she stresses that it's everyone's responsibility to keep kids safe, right now it's up to Islanders to make up for the lack of supervision.

"They're our most vulnerable population in terms of their age," said Peck.

"If we don't have adults looking out for them, it does become a problem."

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