COVID19 – Rise in Child Abuse

Link to PHAB Deaths since COVID Shelter in place

In my 20+ years with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in Dallas, 3 years in domestic violence and the local school district, I have watched the dreadful, ebb and flow of child abuse and other domestic violence cases. I have watched them peak during the recession of 2008, we watched the fall as finances became more stable. Every year,I watched as it seemed that caseloads would become more manageable in the summer, just to explode in the fall.

There were two factors that contributed to these rises and falls…. each gradual. Today…. in the last week…..I’ve watched the two factors collide.

What are the factors:

• Children are more at risk when those around them have increased stress, especially small children. Small children are more needy. They need feeding. They need changing. They need moving. They need cuddling. They need rocking. They need attention. Because small children do not have the vocabulary, they cry. Adults are biologically conditioned to acknowledge the cry of a small child/baby and more intensely if it is our own. The needs of children and their cries compound on the parent who thought at the top of their mind is “We need money/job!” The adult and the child are both crying — both in need. Sadly, what we learned in our nearly 20 years of social work, is that parents/adults, when not provided the proper support and information, find the cries of their children as one more mark against their success as a parent/adult bringing danger to that family.

• Children are not at school. Having children “underfoot” all day can be frustrating to some parents. Homework been redefined and has been greatly expanded. The community and in the largest part, educators and medical professionals make up a large majority of CPS’s “front line”. CPS does not “patrol” looking for child abuse. Child abuse MUST be reported by someone – often someone in the community – parent, neighbor, friend, teacher, principal, nurse, doctor, coach, day care provider, etc. When children are not in school and medical practices are triaging there are fewer eyes.

What can we do to protect our most valuable asset – our children? We MUST be vigilant!

• TAKE CARE OF YOU! If you are emotionally and physically worn down there is nothing left when your children ask you for help meeting their needs. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others… even your children. TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF IS NOT SELFISH!

• Take note of your feelings. If you feel you are becoming more frustrated WALK AWAY into another room, call someone (inside the home or outside) to come and help. The child may still be crying… but crying is not painful.

• Develop a support system. Have people you can call on who know you and may have experienced similar things. These relationships are priceless.

• Reach out if you don’t have a support system- reach out to those in your faith community, your (safe) on-line community, a counselor, doctor, faith leader. You’ll find discussing it helps you process it… keeping your family safe.

• Remember, every action has a consequence: Consequences can be both good and bad. The consequence to reaching out is that you develop a support system. Conversely, the consequence of reaching out a hand in anger against a child could cost you your child’s trust or in the extreme – your legal relationship with your child and/or your freedom.

Note: Relax your previous rules regarding TV and screen time. You’re NOT a bad parent if you do this – it’s okay. You can take this time to relax and regroup.

COVID-19 is causing enough hospitalizations and deaths… LET’S STOP ADDING TO THEM! This is a stressful time, but it is NOT the FAULT of ANY CHILD! Remember, as scared as we are, our children are more so! It is time, right now, to love our children. It is time to reassure our children. It is time to PROTECT our children!

For resources:
National Parent Helpline – 1-855-4APARENT (1-855-427-2743)

Family Help Center – 716-892-2172

Parent Helpline –778-782-3548

Parents Helping Parents – 1-800-632-8188

Boy’s Town – Crisis Hotline for parents – 1-800-448-3000