Covid-19: A Perfect Storm for Child Abuse

Posted in: Notes from Mary
Date: March 31, 2020

While Montgomery County is on state and county-mandated lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, MCAP and our stakeholders are gravely concerned about our community’s children. The lockdown and its resulting isolation, remote schooling, financial stress, and overall societal anxiety have created a “perfect storm” for child abuse. Without the daily interaction children typically have with teachers, coaches, counselors, and other mandated reporters of child abuse, the harm they may be suffering is going un-noticed and un-reported. That the uncertainty of our collective situation has reached heightened levels of severity at the beginning of April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, makes it all even more surreal.  

Sadly, MCAP has seen this before. Challenging times of natural and economic disaster have inevitably led to drastic increases in the number of children in need of our services. The 2008 recession and its resulting unemployment, financial stress, and closures of youth-serving organizations precipitated an unprecedented increase in the number of children needing MCAP’s services – 100% over the previous year. In February 2010, record levels of snow – 22 inches in one month – compelled schools and other community closures for weeks. That February and March, MCAP received referrals for 79 children, the greatest number received in a two-month period in our history.  

As the lockdown of our state and county is extended indefinitely, MCAP expects the number of children being abused and neglected to increase exponentially. While following state and county mandates, MCAP and our attorney advocates are working to the best of our ability to continue helping the child victims with whom we have open cases. But what about children who are at greater risk for abuse during these long and challenging days? What about children who are suffering while isolated at home with their abusers? How can we help these children right now? The answer is YOU.  

If you are concerned about a child you know, such as a relative or neighbor, try to check in with them in any way you can. If you have their phone number, call them at various times. If you can FaceTime or Zoom with them, even better. If you live within walking distance to where they live let them know you’ll be walking by their home and ask them to give you a wave from their window. Do everything you can to let them know you are there for them. And if you suspect abuse – even if you know there is an open case with the child – please call Childline, the Pennsylvania child abuse hotline, at 1-800-932-0313. The hotline is fully operational, even during the lockdown, and your claim will be investigated in as timely a fashion as possible. 

If you have no concerns about children you know, you can still pay attention to the adults and children in your neighborhood. If you see or hear something that causes concern, please call the hotline.  

As with all storms, we know this one will pass. Once our community returns to some semblance of normal, children will go back to school and be seen by their teachers, coaches, counselors, and other adults. If these mandated reporters suspect abuse, they will report it to those who can investigate and end it. And MCAP and our attorney advocates will be here for them.  

But until that time, we need our community to come together and do their best to help protect the most vulnerable among us. Your vigilance could save a life.

From all of us at MCAP, we hope you and your loved ones are safe at home. Be well.

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