During this past year, staying home and limiting in-person interactions with others was a safety measure for the betterment our community. Unfortunately, for many children who are victims of child abuse, home could be an unsafe place -- homes that sometimes lack sustainable nutrition, adequate supervision while families had to balance work, where children spent more time using internet-based activities with online predators and where stress from the day-to-day life of the pandemic only amplified existing struggles.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and now more than ever, children depend on us to remain vigilant for signs of abuse or neglect, whether in-person or socially distanced.
In 2008, the Guilds of Valley Children’s responded to the growing need for a permanent child advocacy program. Through their diligent efforts, a generous endowment of $5 million was presented to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Center to ensure the program’s growth and longevity. The Center continues to expand services and access to support the needs of the children in the Valley.
Since the beginning of COVID-19, reports of suspected child maltreatment has decreased, but that does not mean abuse and neglect is occurring less. For children who are victims of child abuse, shelter in place orders, social distancing and virtual learning have reduced or completely eliminated their contact with trusted adults outside their homes who can report suspected abuse. With an expanded understanding of telemedicine and its ability to provide a window into a child’s world, our team of social work, mental health and medical providers collaborated with more than 1,000 Valley educators and community partners to review the subtle signs and creative techniques that can be used to detect child abuse or neglect in a virtual setting.
According to the California Office of Child Abuse Prevention, one out of four children have experienced abuse or neglect at some point in their lives, during a non-pandemic year. Today, Child Protective Services agencies are reporting a decrease in the number of Suspected Child Abuse Reports (SCARs) made to their referral hotlines1. Additionally, reports from children’s hospitals throughout the nation, including our child advocacy providers, indicate that although there is a decrease in reporting, there is an increase in the severity of child abuse cases presenting to hospitals2.
As the struggles for timely identification and reporting of child abuse have surfaced, there are ways you can help build up protective factors in your community, ensuring children have positive environments and advocates. You can be a mentor, advocate for policies and programs that make a difference, report suspected abuse and increase your awareness.
Together, we can make a difference by learning more about the Guilds of Valley Children’s Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Center resources that are available to you. While we are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel, the interactions of our children continue to have limitations and they are counting on you now more than ever to keep them safe.
About the Author
Board certified in pediatrics and pediatric hospital medicine by the American Board of Pediatrics, Dr. John Kinnison joined Valley Children’s in June 2004 as a pediatric hospitalist. Dr. Kinnison serves as Valley Children's Interim Medical Director for the Guild Center for Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment.
- California Child Welfare Indicators Project. Child Maltreatment Allegations/Child Count. Accessed March 25, 2021. https://ccwip.berkeley.edu/childwelfare/reports/Allegation/MTSG/r/ab636/s
- USA Today. As hospitals see more severe child abuse injuries during coronavirus, 'the worst is yet to come.' May 13, 2020. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/05/13/hospitals-seeing-more-severe-child-abuse-injuries-during-coronavirus/3116395001/