by Annette Pinder

The Child Advocacy Center Needs our Help

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt schooling and everyday life for families, the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) at BestSelf Behavioral Health is concerned about unreported cases of child abuse and urges the community to learn the signs of abuse and report any concerning behavior.

Erie County experiences the second-highest number of child abuse and neglect cases in New York State. An estimated 3,000 children will be abused in Erie County this year. However, in the first three months of 2021, the CAC at BestSelf received 70 reports of possible abuse, down more than 25 percent from pre-pandemic levels.

Rebecca Stevens, Director of the CAC at BestSelf, says, “Without the benefit of in-person educators, at-risk children learning remotely during the pandemic may go unnoticed.”

Stevens attributes the decrease in child abuse reporting to children’s lack of consistent personal contact and rapport with teachers. She says, “With children having fewer in-person interactions with teachers, who are the No. 1 reporters of child abuse and neglect, fewer calls were made this past year. The problem has been further compounded by the fact that pediatricians and hospitals, who are also common sources of abuse reporting, are seeing fewer patients in person.”

The CAC is asking our entire community to band together and support the importance of shining a light on child abuse. To start, Stevens asks anyone who suspects child abuse to report it. She says, “As a neighbor, caregiver, friend, or family member, if you notice signs a child may be in trouble, such as sudden changes in behavior, problems with peers, loss of appetite, or myriad other concerns please call Child Protective Services at 1-800-342-3720. If you see something, say something.”

Common signs of child abuse include withdrawal from friends or usual activities; aggressive, angry, hostile, or hyperactive behavior; changes in school performance; depression, anxiety or unusual fears; sudden loss of self-confidence; apparent lack of supervision; frequent school absences; fear of going home; attempts at running away; self-harm or attempts at suicide; unexplained visible injuries, such as bruises, fractures or burns; injuries that don’t match the given explanation; and more. A full list of the many signs that a child is being physically or sexually abused or neglected along can be found at

The Child Advocacy Center at BestSelf provides comprehensive safe, support in a healthy environment for children and families affected by trauma and abuse in Erie County. The CAC is currently exploring options to expand its services and relocate to better serve the estimated 3,000 children abused each year in Erie County. A community support campaign is underway to raise the necessary funds to expand and relocate the CAC and its services. To learn more about how you can help support this effort visit To speak to someone personally or to request further information, call 716-886-5437, or email