SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Earlier this week, it was announced that schools in Massachusetts will remain closed through May 4 at the earliest.

With so many kids at home, Western Mass News is digging deeper into how mental health professionals are working to ensure children aren't being abused.

According to numbers from the U.S government, child abuse is most often reported by education personnel.

Because students are no longer coming into daily contact with teachers and school staff, social workers and clinicians locally are using different tactics to make sure vulnerable children are safe.

When Gandara Center Clinician Ruth Trujillo-Acosta ​heard schools were closing due to coronavirus concerns, she had some concerns of her own.

"Not only for the children but also for the mothers or the parents who are the victims of domestic violence," Trujillo-Acosta said.

Trujillo-Acosta works regularly with children who have been in abusive and traumatic situations.

Because much of her therapy work is virtual right now, she used the same means to explain to Western Mass News, how she keeps an eye on her kids.

"We can see the children, we can see the environment, we can see the surroundings," Trujillo-Acosta explained.

She's also found other methods to maintain the clinician-patient privacy...they can no longer have in a shared office space.

"We try to ask the parents if it's ok for them to use like earphones and then we have a 1 on 1 connection with the children, in terms of 'how do you feel?', 'if you feel sad', and then we can ask questions that lead us to see if everything is ok in the household," Trujillo-Acosta explained.

And those childrens' parents, also can ask for help discreetly, if they too are victims of abuse.

"The abuser might be in the same room, so we are trained to ask questions that can give us some kind of leeway in terms of if everything is fine or not," Trujillo-Acosta said.

Though Trujillo-Acosta admits it's not the ideal situation for spotting possible abuse...she's remaining committed to using whatever ways she can to keep children safe, even the ones she doesn't see regularly.

"Even if the other children are not our clients, we try to develop activities that include those families, those siblings...so they can be part of the conversation," Trujillo-Acosta noted.

The Gandara Center is also helping parents during this time, connect to food and educational resources.

They also have help for adults.

If anyone is looking for further information on the Gandara Center, their phone number is +1(413)-736-0395.

Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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