Home is Not a Safe Place for All Children

Posted on April 8th, 2020

Home. For many, the word itself brings a feeling of comfort, peace and contentment. Even amidst the chaos and uncertainty we find ourselves in, there is a silver lining—extra time with our loved ones and the opportunity to refocus on our families. But for children who’ve been abused and neglected, their worlds have been turned upside down in ways we can’t even begin to imagine, and the uncertainty of when things will return back to normal brings anything but peace.

With schools closed and parents struggling to make ends meet after job losses, children are at a greater risk than ever. For some children, abuse or neglect has sadly been the norm, but now there’s no escape. For others, they are dealing with new dangers as their parents juggle multiple roles while trying to maintain employment. Stress is at an all-time high and our ability to cope is being put to the test with our children’s well-being at stake.

In March, The Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline received 14,366 calls. While this is 11% fewer calls than this time last year, we know better than to celebrate. This decline does not mean children are safer; it means the child abuse and neglect is not being seen or reported.

The economic impact will also be a key factor in child abuse and neglect cases. During the 2008 recession, Marion County’s CHINS (Child in Need of Services) cases increased by 24% from the year prior. If that is any indicator of what might be seen as a result of COVID-19, the impact could be even greater.

With the recent news of the Shelter in Place Order to continue through the month of April, which also happens to be National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we must be hyper vigilant. Our children are counting on us, and for many of them, this is life or death. Here is what we can do to ensure their safety.

Offer Support to a Parent Who is Struggling
If you have a neighbor or family member who has children at home, be sure to check in on them. Lend an ear, pick up groceries or offer to play virtual games with their kids. Your presence can reduce stress and loneliness.

Report Child Abuse and Neglect
In Indiana, every adult is a mandated reporter. If you see or hear something that makes you suspicious, report it. Be aware of children in your neighborhood and if you suspect child abuse or neglect, call 1-800-800-5556.

Become a CASA Volunteer
Child Advocates trains CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteers to be the voice for abused and neglected children. Now is a good time to learn more about this enriching volunteer experience.

The harsh reality is that abuse and neglect is happening behind closed doors right now. Child Advocates is preparing for an influx of child abuse and neglect cases and it is vitally important that every adult remains vigilant as we weather this storm together.

Cindy Booth is CEO of Child Advocates, the CASA program of Marion County. Child Advocates engages community volunteers and staff to protect children who are victims of child abuse by being their voices in court, ensuring all children thrive in a safe and secure home.