Jessica Heldman ’04 (JD) Child Rights Professor-in-Residence Quoted in Voice of San Diego on Child Abuse During COVID-19 Pandemic

Jessica HeldmanJessica Heldman, Fellmeth-Peterson Professor in Residence in Child Rights

SAN DIEGO (April 14, 2020) – University of San Diego (USD) School of Law Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI)’s Jessica Heldman, Fellmeth-Peterson Professor in Residence in Child Rights was quoted in the Voice of San Diego on the decrease of child abuse calls to the Child Welfare Services Child Abuse Hotline.  While a decrease may seem good, many child advocates are worried it is bad news.  Many people who are mandated reporters of potential abuse, like educators, medical care providers, and childcare providers do not have frequent in-person contact with children.

According to the article, the week after schools closed calls to the child abuse hotline plummeted by fifty percent.  Calls in April are projected to track even lower.  “We actually become more concerned about abuse when we see fewer reports,” said Jessica Heldman, a law professor at the University of San Diego Children’s Advocacy Institute. “A decrease in the number of calls to hotlines doesn’t mean there is less abuse.”

The article continued stating that Heldman said quarantine and social distancing protocols and the resulting social isolation and economic stress they can breed can heighten risk factors for abuse. “We see greater abuse when parents are out of work and when we lack access to social services,” she said.

Read the full article by Maya Srikrishnan in the Voice of San Diego here.

About the Children’s Advocacy Institute

The Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI), founded at the nonprofit University of San Diego School of Law in 1989, is one of the nation's premier academic, research, and advocacy organizations working to improve the lives of children and youth, with special emphasis on improving the child protection and foster care systems and enhancing resources that are available to youth aging out of foster care.

In its academic component, CAI trains law students and attorneys to be effective child advocates throughout their legal careers. Its Child Advocacy Clinic gives USD Law students three distinct clinical opportunities to advocate on behalf of children and youth, and its Dependency Counsel Training Program provides comprehensive training to licensed attorneys engaged in or contemplating Dependency Court practice.

CAI's research and advocacy component, conducted through its offices in San Diego, Sacramento, and Washington, D.C., seeks to leverage change for children and youth through impact litigation, regulatory and legislative advocacy, and public education. Active primarily at the federal and state levels, CAI's efforts are multi-faceted—comprehensively and successfully embracing all tools of public interest advocacy to improve the lives of children and youth. To support CAI’s work, please visit

About the University of San Diego School of Law

Each year, USD educates approximately 800 Juris Doctor and graduate law students from throughout the United States and around the world.  The law school is best known for its offerings in the areas of business and corporate law, constitutional law, intellectual property, international and comparative law, public interest law and taxation.

USD School of Law is one of the 84 law schools elected to the Order of the Coif, a national honor society for law school graduates.  The law school's faculty is a strong group of outstanding scholars and teachers with national and international reputations and currently ranks 36th nationally among U.S. law faculties in scholarly impact and 22nd nationally in past-year faculty downloads on the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN). The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Founded in 1954, the law school is part of the University of San Diego, a private, independent, Roman Catholic university chartered in 1949.



Katie Gonzalez
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