This is bigger than e-learning

Posted on August 6th, 2020

How will the pandemic impact our children in the long-term?
By Carey Haley Wong and Katherine Meger Kelsey

We laugh about pandemic parenting, online learning, and socially distant play for children. Underneath the humor is the larger fact base—this pandemic is broadly affecting children’s lives. It’s crept into their education, their extracurricular activities, their home lives, their ability to connect with friends, their access to libraries, their access to needed services, and generally, their visibility into the world. They are isolated in little pandemic quarantine bubbles with their families, and maybe a quarantine family buddy.

Early in this crisis, the focus was, very necessarily, on hospitals, medical professionals, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. The hope was that the impact on schools and children would be very temporary. The pandemic is dragging on, as we all know too well, and the conversation is beginning to shift. Schools are making decisions about reopening and families are making decisions about sending their children to school or teaching them at home. But make no mistake, this is bigger than e-learning.

History tells us that when the country and families are in distress, the outcome is not good for children. The situation is ripe for increased child abuse and neglect, and concerns about children’s educational and emotional needs can fall by the wayside. Despite this knowledge, the outcome and impact on children as a result of this specific crisis is very speculative at this point. People and organizations of all disciplines serving children are concerned, but it is widely unknown what the long-term outcomes will be.

This complex situation leaves us with many questions and few answers. The best way to learn is to listen and we need the perspectives and information from people of all disciplines and experiences to help us begin to resolve this issue.

Child Advocates and Kids’ Voice, both Indianapolis-based agencies serving abused and neglected children, have teamed up to identify how to best serve children during the pandemic. Understanding this isn’t an isolated issue, we reached out to several subject matter experts in a variety of fields including schools, courts, law enforcement, mental health professionals, kids themselves, social workers, pediatricians, lawyers, parents, and government officials, for their insights and ideas.

The problem is complex, but the goal is straightforward—learn more so we can ensure the safety and well-being of our children. Throughout the month of August, Child Advocates and Kids’ Voice will share feedback from the experts on our websites and social media platforms.

We encourage the community to join the conversation and provide input as we strive to do better and ensure the best possible outcomes for all children. Visit our blogs on childadvocates.net and kidsvoicein.org  to learn more throughout the month.

Katherine Meger Kelsey (left) is an attorney and the director of the Children’s Law Center at Kids’ Voice of Indiana and Carey Haley Wong (right) is the chief legal counsel at Child Advocates.