COVID-19: Child Abuse & Neglect Have Not Disappeared

COVID-19: Child Abuse & Neglect Have Not Disappeared

The pandemic and return to school policies are affecting children at risk of abuse and neglect.

Michelle O'Neill reports after talking with Brooke Hendrickx, from the Quad Cities Child Abuse Council. She's the Director of Development and Communications.

Calls reporting child abuse and neglect were down 50% across Illinois and Iowa in June, weeks after the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. But Hendrickx and other advocates for children knew child abuse continued and may have increased. 

Teachers, coaches, clergy, and others who are required to report child abuse and neglect lost access to children in mid-March. That's when schools and child care centers closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

Teachers adapted by holding weekly video chats with students, and that continues now that school has started again. Many districts have increased counseling staff to provide resources for parents to ask questions and voice their concerns. 

Stressful situations such as custody battles had to wait as family courts stopped hearing cases for a couple of months.

The Quad Cities Child Abuse Council switched to providing services by phone and online.

Hendrickx says only the Child Protection Center in Muscatine remained open to conduct medical examinations and forensic interviews for children affected by abuse or neglect.

Without grandparents and other adults, many parents call the council to ask about changes in their kids' behavior.

Hendrickx says increased stress and isolation may lead to an increased risk of abuse and neglect.

And she hopes people will look out for each other and perhaps leave a restaurant gift card or kids game for a struggling family in their neighborhood. Anything that might help ease the stress and lower the risk. 

The pandemic and lockdown interrupted family routines. And the added stress felt by adults is felt by children, too. But they deal with it in different ways.

The local Child Abuse Council has created Facebook groups for parents to connect with each other. And Hendrickx says client groups meet virtually to give moms and dads a chance to talk to someone besides their children.

Here's a list of resources about prevention and reporting.