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'Safe 2 Say' app can be used to report abuse

Child advocates are trying to get out the word about ways to report child abuse during a time when everyone is isolated.

SCRANTON, Pa. — The Children's Advocacy Center of NEPA on Mulberry Street in Scranton is closed during the coronavirus pandemic. Its team of counselors is working remotely, only physically responding to the most serious child abuse cases.

"Needless to say, each of us is very restless and very much wanting to get back, under safe conditions," said Mary Ann Laporta, executive director of the center.

Laporta says reports to the state's ChildLine abuse hotline have gone down more than 50 percent over the past month or so, but that doesn't mean abuse stopped when the rest of the world did.

"And we all know that in a pandemic, it's not put to rest, child abuse is, many of the factors in the home exacerbate those things that are child abuse risk factors. As we all know, the enormous stressors, finances, unemployment, food insufficiency, tight living conditions."

The Children's Advocacy Center is reaching out to kids and neighbors online. It's encouraging people to use the Safe 2 Say app, originally created by the state attorney general's office to report bullying and threats in schools.

It can also be used to discretely report abuse while families are isolated.

"It's open to children, it's an app for kids. And kids have been instructed in the schools, in the high schools and the grade schools, how to access and how to use Safe 2 Say. This is a very, very good vehicle for communicating."

The app is free, and anyone can download it for Android or Apple devices.

The CAC would normally observe April as Child Abuse Awareness Month by placing pinwheels on Courthouse Square in Scranton and by hosting its major fundraising events.

The staff is looking forward to May, hoping it will allow them to fully get back to work.

RELATED: 'Safe 2 Say Something' App Adds Extra Protection for Students