Monday, June 08, 2020

Child-Abuse Reports Are Falling, and That’s Bad News for Children: Pediatricians say they are seeing alarming injuries and deaths as the coronavirus pandemic cripples the nation’s early-warning system for child abuse

By Deanna Paul and Zusha Elinson of The WSJ. Excerpts:
"Child-abuse specialists are watching a grim scenario unfold since the coronavirus pandemic and related lockdowns began in mid-March. From San Diego and San Francisco to New York City and Boston, pediatricians and emergency-room doctors say they are witnessing an increase, or at least a steady flow, of severe child abuse and neglect—infants beaten and killed, and children admitted for drug ingestion or falling out of windows.

At the same, there has been a dramatic drop in child-abuse reports as teachers, day-care workers and others who are required by state law to notice and flag abuse are no longer routinely around children. Those workers are trained to spot early stages of abuse and report them, preventing dangerous physical violence in the future. That is happening less and less, experts said.

California registered 45% fewer child-abuse reports in April, compared with April 2019, and Texas logged a 30% dip."

"Child advocates said they are concerned about families feeling the pressures of a pandemic-induced recession and extended school and day-care closures.

“Everybody in this field is fearful of it, because we know that isolation is a huge risk factor for child abuse, and we know that economic insecurity is another one,” said Rachel Berger, chief of the Child Advocacy Center at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “We have both of them here during Covid.”

During the 2008 economic recession, hospitals reported a surge in infant head-trauma abuse cases during a nationwide rise in unemployment, revealing a strong correlation between violence and the financial stress, research by Dr. Berger and others found."

"During the pandemic, some doctors have seen more kids falling out of windows and accidentally consuming drugs, and there are reports of older siblings hurting young kids, as parents spread child-care responsibilities across the family.

“Kids right now don’t have the global safety net that they had before,” said James Crawford-Jakubiak, medical director for the Center for Child Protection at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, Calif."

"Even in cities where case volume is generally down, pediatricians worry about what they aren’t seeing. The Covid-19 crisis has created conditions for continuing sexual abuse in the home—a crime most often perpetrated on children by a family member."

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