Adjusting to life changes in response to COVID-19 may be overwhelming for children and adults alike. While families across South Carolina are doing the best they can to cope with school and workplace closings, stressors like lost income, lack of child care, food insecurity, less access to healthcare and other resources, along with separation from social support systems, can take an emotional toll.
Although reports of child abuse have dropped nationwide due to shelter in place and social distancing, we know that it is still happening. Children are specifically vulnerable to abuse during COVID-19. There are many child protection risks that have been observed in previous infectious disease outbreaks, such as:
- Physical and emotional maltreatment
- Gender based violence
- Mental stress
- Child labor
- Unaccompanied or unsupervised children
- Social exclusion
Research shows that increased stress levels among parents is often a major predictor of physical abuse and neglect of children. Stressed parents may be more likely to respond to their children’s anxious behaviors or demands in aggressive or abusive ways. The support systems that many at-risk parents rely on, such as extended family, child care and schools, religious groups and other community organizations, are no longer available in many areas due to the stay-at-home orders. Child protection agencies are experiencing strained resources with fewer workers available, making them unable to conduct home visits in areas with stay-at-home orders. Since children are not going to school, teachers and school counselors are unable to witness the signs of abuse and report to the proper authorities. Also, many at-risk families may not have access to the technology children needed to stay connected with friends and extended family.
SC Law encourages all persons to report suspected child abuse and neglect. If you witness or suspect a situation that threatens the safety and well being of a child or vulnerable adult, please call 888-CARE4US (888-227-3487).