By Victor I. Vieth, Robert J. Peters, Tyler Counsil, et al., Zero Abuse Project, April 2020
Many child protection professionals believe child abuse is likely to increase during the COVID-19 pandemic2 because most abusers are parents3 or siblings4 who now have more complete access to the child victim. In turn, the victim may no longer have schoolteachers, faith leaders or other mandated reporters they can access for help or who may detect a sign of abuse.5 Children may also have reduced access to medical and mental health providers. In responding to this concern, here are some tips Multi-Disciplinary Teams (MDTs) 6 may wish to employ.
1. Educate mandated reporters about their role of protecting children during the pandemic
Although children are no longer in school, attending worship services, or involved in sports, they may still have contact with all of these mandated reporters through virtual activities. Accordingly, MDTs can reach out to these schools and other personnel and provide them with tips for preventing abuse. It can be as simple as distributing information to parents about managing their stress and the stress level of their children. In addition to providing prevention tips, MDTs can educate teachers and others interacting with these children to be aware of signs of abuse. Just as a child not completing his or her homework during an in-person school week may be an indicator something is wrong at home, a child failing to complete his or her homework online or who suddenly declines in school performance, may likewise be struggling. It may simply be the added stress of parents and children adjusting to life during a pandemic but, either way, additional support from a teacher or other trusted professional may aid the family.