ONE MORE CRISIS WITH COVID 19: CHILD ABUSE
Nationwide, child abuse experts are observing a worrisome landscape during the COVID 19 pandemic and lockdown: a likely increase of more severe child abuse and neglect (https://www.wsj.com/articles/child-abuse-reports-are-falling-and-thats-bad-news-for-children-11591263001?mod=hp_lead_pos6). More specifically: infants beaten, even killed, or children taking drugs or falling out of windows due to a lack of adequate supervision.
Also, of great concern is that child abuse reports have dropped significantly. Designated reporters, like teachers, day-care workers, pediatricians/physicians are not with children on a routine basis, which often is the source of child abuse reports. Such professionals are trained to notice early signs of abuse and to report them, so as to prevent more dangerous abuse from developing.
As families experience the impact of the pandemic, such as unemployment, school closures and the increased child-care responsibilities, and isolation from sheltering at home, the pressures increase on parents. Such pressures heighten the risks of child abuse.
Specific data includes:
- The Great Recession of 2008 prompted an increase in head trauma cases for infants across the country.
- The children’s hospital in Jacksonville, FL had eight abuse-related head trauma cases between March and April, as compared to three the previous year during the same timeframe.
- Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, TX had nine cases of severe child abuse with infants under 12 months old since mid-March, three of which were fatal. During an entire year, the center sees six of these cases usually.
- San Diego Children’s Hospital has treated 24 children with abuse (ranging from head and abdominal trauma, spinal fractures, to suffocation) in March and April. This is double the usual numbers.
- MD’s have treated more children for falling out of windows, accidental ingestion of drugs, or older siblings injuring their younger siblings, as parents’ supervision has lapsed.
In Los Angeles and Boston, pediatricians and child protective service workers are training teachers to be aware of indications of abuse during online teaching. Tufts Medical Center is encouraging neighbors and friends to check in with young parents. A family with a newborn infant is under duress in ordinary times very often, magnified by the stresses of this pandemic. Sexual abuse often perpetrated by a family member is less likely to be questioned when families are this isolated. Children have less contact with safe adults; children are less likely to report it and/or leave tell-tale signs with their behavior that is observed by other attuned adults outside the family.
It seems likely that as restrictions ease, and in-person school resumes in some form, reports of abuse may dramatically increase. Meanwhile, children are suffering even more than usual. Members of IPN are, of course, designated reporters of child abuse to begin protective efforts for such children. Many of us are also child therapists, skilled at working with such needs, or making referrals for needed services.
Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Torrance, CA. A member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network, he can be reached at 310 539-2772 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2020 by Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.