Cases of child abuse and neglect are expected to rise in the coming weeks and months due to the coronavirus.
Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas has already reported a spike, as reported by Newsweek.
There haven’t been any noticeable changes locally, according to Kymberly Cook, COO of the statewide child welfare organization Children’s Home Society of Florida (CHS). But, she said, it may just be a matter of time.
“Prior to the virus, nearly 75% of kids in foster care were there because of neglect. That is stemming from fixable family issues: untreated mental health challenges, lack of parental support or role models, and lack of access to medical care, affordable groceries, and childcare," she said.
But now families are stuck at home, parents or guardians are losing their jobs or getting furloughed, and essential goods and services are becoming harder and harder to come by, pushing more families toward a crisis point.
Cook said the best way to stop child abuse and neglect before it happens is to get families the help they need and keep them from losing hope.
CHS has been getting more calls from families looking for help recently, and to meet that growing demand and maintain appropriate social distancing, the organization’s counselors, parent coaches, and mentors are making themselves available virtually.
CHS is also putting together resource guides for families which include info on getting internet access, mental health and health care, and tutoring.
When situations deteriorate to the point that abuse or neglect is happening, Cook said it’s important for friends and family to call the abuse hotline: 1-800-96-ABUSE.
“What we tell people is if you suspect or see child abuse or neglect, go ahead and make the call,” she said. “Reach out at the first sign of crisis.”
But as National Child Abuse Prevention Month kicks off, Cook says the most important thing for children and families to remember is that help is available.
“If you're feeling overwhelmed, helpless, scared, in need of services, please reach out. Reach out to a community provider who can help find the services that families need. For instance, at CHS we have an online referral for our counseling and mental health services. So they can reach out online through their phone or through their computer and make a referral immediately, and someone will reach out to start telehealth services. So there are services that folks can access fairly quickly,” she said.