We know it is important that we stay home during this pandemic. We also know that during times of crisis and economic instability, the rate of child abuse increases. In contrast to this reality, in Oregon and across the country, the number of child abuse reports being made has declined. Why?
We believe this discrepancy is, at least in part, the result of children not coming into contact with mandatory reporters and other safe and trusted adults in their lives at this time. When kids go to school, afterschool programs, sports programs, and youth groups they encounter mandatory reporters, who make over 75% of all reports of suspected child abuse in Oregon. Without them, many children may suffer abuse in silence during this pandemic.
We’re concerned for kids. This is why we are asking everyone in our community to do what they can to keep an eye out and speak up for kids! Everyone can make a difference. Consider our ideas below and share this PDF with the Adults, Essential Workers, and Educators in your life.
Adults – Who are the children in your life? As you check in with family, friends, neighbors or acquaintances, consider the safety and wellbeing of the children in your circle. Have you previously been concerned for a child or about the behavior of an adult you know? Check-in. A phone call or video chat is an opportunity to get a sense of how kids are doing. Know anyone who recently lost a job, had a baby, or has struggled with their mental health? We know that lapses of judgment resulting in abusive actions can happen when people experience high levels of stress. Check-in with the parents you know and offer a listening ear. Keep in mind that children with disabilities or developmental delays are 2-3 times more likely to be abused.
Essential Workers – You may be the only person to witness signs of abuse. Do you encounter children while on the job as an essential worker? Look for signs of abuse and take note of what you hear kids say, consider if something seems unsafe. Ask caregivers about cuts or bruises (especially on soft parts of the body) and ask yourself if the explanation matches the injury. Keep in mind that while kids are not in school, they are missing the vital connections to mandatory reporters and other adults in their lives who could help them. Kids need you to act! Trust your gut, make a report.
School Personnel – You may be the safe and trusted adult a child needs to help them stop abuse. Are you a teacher or school counselor working with students online? Consider what you can see in their surrounding during video calls. Does anything seem dangerous? Check-in with your students, let them know you care about their safety and wellbeing? Consider sharing this information with your students’ caregivers. When we demonstrate knowledge and a willingness to act to stop child abuse, we both empower other adults to step up and protect kids and discourage potential perpetrators by letting them know that we are paying attention.
Kids are staying at home to help keep us all safe from the spread of COVID-19. But they still need us to help keep them safe from abuse, perhaps more now than ever. Together, let’s become a strong support system for kids!