clearn.png
Friday July 10th, 2020 9:31PM

Experts see no proof of child-abuse surge amid pandemic

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

NEW YORK (AP) — When the coronavirus pandemic took hold across the United States in mid-March, forcing schools to close and many children to be locked down in households buffeted by job losses and other forms of stress, many child-welfare experts warned of a likely surge of child abuse.

Fifteen weeks later, the worries persist. Yet some experts on the front lines, including pediatricians who helped sound the alarm, say they have seen no evidence of a marked increase.

Among them is Dr. Lori Frasier, who heads the child-protection program at Penn State’s Hershey Medical Center and is president of a national society of pediatricians specializing in child abuse prevention and treatment.

Frasier said she got input in recent days from 18 of her colleagues across the country and “no one has experienced the surge of abuse they were expecting.”

A similar assessment came from Jerry Milner, who communicates with child-protection agencies nationwide as head of the Children’s Bureau at the federal Department of Health and Human Services. “I’m not aware of any data that would substantiate that children are being abused at a higher rate during the pandemic,” he told The Associated Press.

Still, some experts believe the actual level of abuse during the pandemic is being hidden from view because many children are seeing neither teachers nor doctors, and many child-protection agencies have cut back on home visits by caseworkers.

“There’s no question children are more at risk — and we won’t be able to see those children until school reopens,” said Marci Hamilton, a University of Pennsylvania professor who heads CHILD USA, a think tank seeking to prevent child abuse and neglect.

Several states said calls to their child-abuse hotlines dropped by 40% or more, which they attributed to the fact that teachers and school nurses, who are required to report suspected abuse, no longer had direct contact with students.

“While calls have gone down, that doesn’t mean abuse has stopped,” said Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, which reported a 50% drop in hotline calls.

Comprehensive data on abuse during the pandemic won’t be available for many months, according to Milner.

And whatever the current level of abuse, there’s no question some of it is horrific.

Georgia Boothe of Children’s Aid, a private agency that provides some of New York City’s foster care services, said some of the children now entering the system were brought in by police officers investigating domestic violence reports.

“The level of severity in some of those cases is unreal,” she said.

Frasier, the Pennsylvania-based pediatrician, said some of her colleagues documented a sharp increase in shaken baby syndrome and children’s head injuries during the 2008 recession, which they attributed at least partly to economic stress.

“With the pandemic, we saw the high jobless rates, the layoffs, and we thought ‘OK, now we’re in for it again,’” she said.

She and others have noted some changes during the pandemic — for example, more accidental injuries from burns, falls and mishaps on farms. What they have not seen is a surge of child abuse.

Frasier has a couple of guesses as to why — a protective effect in households where multiple people were locked down together and federal financial aid that eased the stress on some vulnerable families.

In Nashville, Tennessee, Dr. Heather Williams says she and her colleagues who specialize in child-abuse pediatrics were braced for a pandemic-fueled surge, based on the experiences of 2008. Now she wonders if the recent infusion of federal unemployment assistance may have helped ward off such an increase.

“We’d be really excited if we’re wrong,” she said.

At the Children’s Bureau, Milner says he’s gratified that child protection is deemed a high priority during the pandemic, but he was troubled by the tone of some of the early warnings. He suggested that some had “racist underpinnings” — unfairly stereotyping low-income parents of color as prone to abusive behavior.

“To sound alarm bells, because teachers aren’t seeing kids every day, that parents are waiting to harm their kids — it’s an unfair depiction of so many parents out there doing the best under very tough circumstances,” he said.

One of Milner’s top aides, special assistant David Kelly, noted that in normal times a large majority of calls to child-abuse hotlines don’t trigger investigations.

"We know that the majority of findings of child maltreatment are for neglect, not physical abuse or exploitation, and we know that there are strong associations between neglect and challenges associated with poverty,” Kelly wrote in a June 12 article in the Chronicle of Social Change.

“If we take a closer look … we might be able to see the depth of resiliency that is present and the remarkable efforts poor parents make to get by on the smallest fraction of what many of us have.”

Concerns about children’s well-being amid the pandemic extend beyond physical abuse. There are worries about children missing vaccinations as their parents skip visits to doctors’ offices.

For children with internet access, weeks away from school have increased the risk of online sexual exploitation, according to Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau. She heads the Johns Hopkins Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse.

However, Letourneau is encouraged by one recent trend — more older children are calling hotlines themselves to report exploitation and abuse.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Experts see no proof of child-abuse surge amid pandemic
When the coronavirus pandemic took hold across the United States in mid-March, forcing schools to close, many child welfare experts warned of a surge of child abuse
10:31AM ( 5 minutes ago )
Confirmed virus cases hit 10 million as Poland, France vote
Worldwide confirmed coronavirus infections have hit the 10 million mark as voters in Poland and France went to the polls for virus-delayed elections
10:21AM ( 14 minutes ago )
The Latest: Maryland `reopen' protest organizer has COVID-19
A Maryland man who has helped organize “reopen” protests against measures intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus says he has the virus
10:17AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Trump's attacks seen undercutting confidence in 2020 vote
With just over four months to go before Election Day, President Donald Trump is escalating his efforts to delegitimize that vote
9:39AM ( 57 minutes ago )
Trump denies briefing on reported bounties against US troops
President Donald Trump is denying that he'd been briefed on reported U.S. intelligence that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan
9:14AM ( 1 hour ago )
A divided Poland holds presidential vote delayed by pandemic
Poles have begun voting in a presidential election that had been scheduled for May but was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic
8:53AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
2 dead after shooting at California distribution center
Authorities say a man drove into a Northern California distribution center and started shooting at people, killing an employee and wounding four others before he was killed by police
3:52AM ( 6 hours ago )
Mississippi set to remove Confederate emblem from its flag
Mississippi is on the verge of changing its state flag to erase a Confederate battle emblem that’s broadly condemned as racist
1:00AM ( 9 hours ago )
Coroner: 3rd Illinois shooting victim dies, 2 identified
Authorities say a third person died Saturday afternoon who was critically wounded in a shooting at a warehouse in central Illinois where the suspect had fatally shot two coworkers before apparently killing himself
11:08PM ( 11 hours ago )
Top U.S. News short headlines
Confirmed virus cases hit 10 million as Poland, France vote
Worldwide confirmed coronavirus infections have hit the 10 million mark as voters in Poland and France went to the polls for virus-delayed elections
10:21AM ( 14 minutes ago )
The Latest: Maryland `reopen' protest organizer has COVID-19
A Maryland man who has helped organize “reopen” protests against measures intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus says he has the virus
10:17AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Businesses weigh reopening - or close again - as cases rise
It’s not the reopening businesses were hoping for
10:08AM ( 27 minutes ago )
Taiwan holds LGBT pride parade despite coronavirus
The Taiwanese capital has held its annual LGBT pride parade, making it one of the few places in the world to proceed with such an event in the face of the coronavirus pandemic
10:04AM ( 31 minutes ago )
UK considers first local lockdown in COVID-19 pandemic
Britain’s government is considering a lockdown of the central English city of Leicester amid a spike of COVID-19 cases
9:51AM ( 44 minutes ago )