On April 3, 2020, the New Hampshire Union Leader published an op-ed written by Marcia Sink, CEO of CASA of NH. Marcia wanted to increase awareness of the toll that sheltering at home during the COVID-19 epidemic could be taking on our state’s most vulnerable children, along with ways that readers could help. We are pleased to share the article here:
Keep An Eye on the Children
Every conversation these days (conducted virtually, of course!) seems to start with “How are you doing?” We talk about how the isolation is getting to us, how we are watching too much news, or the challenges of finding toilet paper. Imagine if we asked the thousands of abused or neglected children in New Hampshire the same question.
With schools and childcare closed and parents struggling to make ends meet after job losses, these kids are existing in a pressure cooker. Home — which is considered the safest place to be for most of us during the COVID-19 epidemic — is filled with perils for children and youth experiencing abuse or neglect. For some children, abuse or neglect has been part of a pattern. For others, they are dealing with new dangers as parents are overwhelmed by a world turned upside down by COVID-19.
In March alone, New Hampshire’s Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) reported a 50% decline in reports of child abuse or neglect. This decline is not because children are magically safer during the COVID-19 crisis. It is because the signs of abuse or neglect are not being seen and reported as frequently.
A 2018 report from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services statistics showed that educators were the leading source for child abuse or neglect referrals. When children are not going to school or daycare, and caring adults are following recommendations to isolate, there are many fewer eyes watching out for children and youth who may need help. Unfortunately, in today’s environment it appears that many cases of child abuse and neglect just aren’t being reported.
We will all be maintaining our isolation through April, which also happens to be National Child Abuse Prevention Month. We cannot let our state’s children suffer unnoticed as our social distancing continues. There are things that all of us can do now to make a difference.