Child Abuse and Neglect Insights During the Pandemic
You may be thinking – “I’m already stressed about this pandemic, I can’t possibly think of another stressful and sad topic.” As a clinical psychologist, I agree with wanting to limit how much we worry about and for how long we worry.
Here is the thing, though. We all have good intentions to not hurt our children, and unfortunately when we’re really stressed out, we are more likely to respond to our children aggressively. We may yell, berate, hit, or yank our children or we may throw things. In fact, a recent national survey found that 61% of parents had shouted, yelled, or screamed at their children at least once in the previous two weeks (Lee & Ward, 2020). One out of every five parents had spanked or slapped their children (Lee & Ward, 2020).
Big emotions are normal when we’re stressed. However, aggressive behavior can be avoided by being proactive. So take the time to learn a little about the risk factors for abuse and neglect so you can mitigate those risks in your family.
Risk Factors for Abuse and Neglect
- Being really stressed, anxious, and scared.
- Being socially isolated – that is, not being able to connect with family, friends, child care and schools, religious groups, or other community social organizations.
- Having basic necessities threatened – being out of work (with and without pay), being at risk for eviction or foreclosure, not being able to pay your utility bills, not being able to find groceries at the grocery store.
- Having or caring for someone with pre-existing health, mental health, alcohol or substance use, or developmental disabilities.
- Acute situations that cause us to feel angry – kids interrupt us while we are on the phone or on an important work video call; kids decided to not ask for help and made a huge mess in the kitchen.
School Personnel Are Top Reporters of Abuse and Neglect
School personnel are the top reporters of suspected child abuse and neglect. With some schools being virtual or offering concurrent remote learning, teachers do not have the same level of interactions with their students and are not able to talk privately with children. Typically, schools provide training and reminders about watching for signs of abuse and neglect. Again, this is more challenging with school being held virtually. So, we all play a role as neighbors, friends, and family – we’re a community.
How to Request Services
If your family is experiencing two or more risk factors, request services with your child’s school counselor, social worker, or mental health therapist. These professionals are providing in person and virtual visits. They can help bridge gaps in services that your family may be experiencing. If you’re already connected to the school counselor, you can also connect to a mental health therapist, as most are providing virtual sessions. You can call (402) 717-HOPE (4673) to get started.
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has many resources for parents and caregivers
- The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children also has a wealth of resources for parents and children
Five Steps to Help a Friend of Family Member
The following are steps you can take if you have a friend or family member who is experiencing violence in their home:
- Reach out. This helps reduce social isolation.
- If you have the means to send groceries or other supplies, do this. It will alleviate some of the stress in your friend/family’s home.
- Create a plan to support your friend/family member. You could develop code words that serve to disrupt or intervene in escalating or potentially violent situations.
- Have a list of community resources ready to go.
- Talk to your friend/family member about how to get help.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or thehotline.org
- The National Sexual Assault hotline is 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or rainn.org
- The National child sexual abuse prevention hotline is Stop It Now at 1-888-PREVENT (773-8368) or visit stopitnow.org
- The National Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-4A-CHILD (422-4453) or childhelp.org/childhelp-hotline
- The National Parent Helpline at 1-855-4A-PARENT (427- 2736) or visit nationalparenthelpline.org
- Latino and Latina survivors can reach out to Casa de Esperanza at 1-651-772-1611 or casadeesperanza.org
- Native American and Alaska Native people can reach out to StrongHearts Native Helpline at 1-844-7NATIVE (762- 8483) or strongheartshelpline.org
- LGBTQ people can reach out to the Anti-Violence Project Hotline at 1-212-714-1141 or avp.org/get-help, or the Northwest Network at nwnetwork.org
- Young people experiencing relationship or domestic violence can contact Love Is Respect at 1-866-331-9474 or loveisrespect.org
- LGBTQ young people who may be experiencing abuse because of their gender or sexuality can contact the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or thetrevorproject.org
Lee, S. J., & Ward, K. P. (March 26, 2020). Stress and Parenting During the Coronavirus Pandemic. Research Brief found here: