Child Abuse and the Coronavirus: How Covid 19 may Increase the Risk of Child Abuse and Neglect

As the Covid 19, or Coronavirus pandemic, continues to keep children and families inside during this time of self isolation, more children face the risk of abuse and neglect while at home.

“When families are forced to be isolated and their incomes potentially limited I think it’s going to create a lot more stress for families that are already volatile,” said Kim Garrett, CEO of Palomar, Oklahoma City’s family justice center. Indeed, Garrett believes that this time of self isolation may very well “increase domestic violence and child abuse.”

Like so many others, caseworkers are now working from home, and are unable to visit their foster parents, and provide the assistance and resources they need. Yet, as caseworkers and child welfare employees stay at home during the Covid 19 pandemic, the rate of domestic violence and child abuse may increase in dramatic fashion. Teachers, as well, often report suspected child abuse but are not likely to see students in the coming weeks if schools remain closed.

Indeed, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, teachers and professional who work in America’s school system are responsible for reporting1 in every 5 child-mistreatment claims. With both teachers and child welfare workers now at home, and no longer working with children at risk, the number of cases of suspected child abuse and neglect reported may likely drop drastically. As a result, these children will not find the support and resources they need, and instead remain in harmful and even violent and life threatening environments.

“Studies show that up to five million children in the United States experience and/or witness domestic violence each year.”

“It almost feels like everyone’s abandoning these areas of need. No one is going to provide services there anymore because of the edicts that are coming down,” said Hector Glynn, chief operating officer for The Village, which provides services to strugling families in Connecticut. “It has all unraveled,” Glynn added.

Studies show that up to five million children in the United States experience and/or witness domestic violence each year. Whether it’s watching an act of physical or sexual abuse, listening to threats or sounds of violence, or viewing the evidence of such abuse in a victim in the signs of bleeding, bruises, torn clothing, or broken items, the effects are damaging to a child, in a variety of ways. Parents dealing with their own anxieties and struggles are sometimes not able to adequately care for their children. “Violence increases when you have circumstances such as unemployment and isolation,” said Gwyn Kaitis, policy coordinator for the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence.”

As the number of parents staying home during the Covid 19 pandemic increases throughout the nation, and globe, the stresses of economic and housing instability, as well as the stress of parenting, cause a greater risk of abuse and neglect for the children in homes. For those parents who run the risk of losing their jobs, or for those who have already lost their source of income, the stress and tension only increases. For some, this leads to domestic violence. “Neglect happens because people make difficult decisions due to a lack of resources,” said Georgia Boothe, executive vice president of Children’s Aid in New York.

“What many do not understand is that the effects of domestic abuse go beyond being abused or neglected themselves.”

“Anytime a perpetrator feels like they’re losing control it’s most likely going to escalate their behavior,” said Jan Peery, president and CEO of YWCA Oklahoma City. Perry also ads that “Any of those things that make people feel out of control, they’re going to seek to gain that control back. They’ll do that by perpetrating violence against their victims.”

What many do not understand is that the effects of domestic abuse go beyond being abused or neglected themselves. For those children who have watched a parent inflict violence and abuse upon another in their home, these children are more apt to repeat this later on in their adult life with their spouses or partners. For those children who have witnessed domestic violence, they may become defiant or aggressive in their own right. Indeed, many of these children turn to drugs and alcohol later, as they age.

A child’s educational development is also at risk, due to witnessing domestic abuse. Normally, as a child grows in age, he will experience growth intellectually. His language will increase in terms of vocabulary development, as he first learns to speak, recite the alphabet, and eventually gain a larger personal vocabulary, conversational ability, and writing skills. Yet, when a child witnesses domestic violence, the trauma of this experience may hinder or impair normal child brain development. Furthermore, these children also are more likely to face challenges and difficulties in school, in both academic performance and discipline. Finally children who are witnesses to domestic abuse may be more anxious than others, and experience feelings and emotions of anger, depression, stress, and fear.

If you know of an incident of child abuse or domestic violence, it needs to be reported. Call the police, call local law enforcement, call 911, or call The National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1–800–799-SAFE (7233).

Dr. John DeGarmo is an international parenting and foster care expert, and a TEDx Talk presenter. He has been a foster parent for 17 years, and he and his wife have had over 60 children come through their home. Dr. John is an international consultant to legal firms and foster care agencies, as well as an empowerment and transformational speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system. He is the author of several books, including The Little Book of Foster Care Wisdom: 365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement for Foster Care Families and writes for several publications. Dr. John has appeared on CNN HLN, Good Morning, America, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and elsewhere, He and his wife have received many awards, including the Good Morning America Ultimate Hero Award. He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at The Foster Care Institute.

Leading foster care expert and international empowerment speaker

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store