(Posted March 2020)
In the midst of this outbreak of COVID-19, many families find themselves facing many of the risk factors for child abuse and neglect: parental stress, economic instability, food insecurity, lack of adequate child care, and lack of normal routines. Consider that in Fairfax County last year 3,031 children were involved with Child Protective Services, enough to fill 56 school buses, and it becomes clear that we can’t ignore the current risk.
The closures of school and workplaces can increase family stress by placing family members in constant contact with each other. On the other hand, some parents who are required to go into work, may make the decision to leave young children unsupervised rather than lose needed income. If children lack the maturity to be home alone, this could have dangerous consequences.
Children may express anxiety by being clingy, and underlying behavioral issues are sure to surface. Parents who are unaccustomed to providing round-the-clock care for their children are likely to have their patience tested.
Even in families that normally have low-stress and a great support network, parents may lash out due to the unusual pressures of these uncertain times. Furthermore, while children and families are out of contact with mandated reporters such as teachers, counselors, and child-care providers, signs of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse may go unnoticed and underreported.
Every child deserves to grow up in a supportive, stable and nurturing environment. Right now, the community must step in to keep eyes on children in your neighborhood, as many of the normal child protective factors are not in place during this crisis. If you have questions or concerns about a child’s safety, call the Child Protective Services’ 24-hour hotline at 703-324-7400. Fairfax County's CPS hotline workers can also provide families with help, guidance, and referrals to supportive services.
Here are some additional resources that can help families manage their stress, cope with the crisis and understand how to support their children through the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
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