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Penn State Health

COVID-19 pandemic highlights need for strategies to identify and report child abuse

19-May-2020 8:20 AM EDT, by Penn State Health

As children and families face added challenges and increased isolation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is growing awareness of the need to be prepared to identify children who are at risk for maltreatment.

The current situation also underscores the importance of the safety net of mandated reporters who are obligated by law to report when they have reasonable suspicion that child abuse has occurred. A tool from Penn State’s Center for the Protection of Children prepares those who work with infants, toddlers and preschoolers to protect vulnerable children.

iLookOut for Child Abuse is a free, online, interactive training program that uses a video-based storyline to teach people the signs and symptoms of child maltreatment, and what to do when they are concerned about a child.

iLookOut has already been shown to increase knowledge and change attitudes about child abuse and its reporting. The program was first introduced in Maine two and a-half years ago to select child care facilities. As of April 15, it is now available to all early childhood professionals in the state. A preliminary version of iLookOut was first launched in Pennsylvania in 2014, and is soon to be updated to the version in Maine that has undergone extensive evaluation.

iLookOut was designed so it can be readily tailored to meet state-specific laws and guidelines.  iLookOut also includes follow-up micro-learning activities that can be completed on smart-phones and other mobile devices.

Because a variety of factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic are placing children at greater risk for maltreatment, people should know that iLookOut is an online, evidence-based resource that is available free of charge in Maine and Pennsylvania.

Dr. Benjamin Levi, pediatrician at Penn State Children’s Hospital and professor of pediatrics and humanities at Penn State College of Medicine, is available for interviews about iLookOut for Child Abuse and the broader topic of identifying children who are at risk for maltreatment.

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