Child abuse during the coronavirus pandemic

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – With schools closed to slow the spread of COVID-19, another health concern has emerged. Experts fear that child abuse is on the increase since so many kids are at home with no place else to go.

Children’s Service Center counts some 8,500 clients throughout northeastern and central Pennsylvania. Because of the coronavirus crisis, this organization is among those facing a more difficult battle in the fight against child abuse.

“A lot of the signs are going to go missed just because of the environment we are working in now,” said Mike Hopkins, President and CEO of Children’s Services Center.

With thousands of children and families in his organization’s care, Hopkins takes no comfort in the fact that calls about suspected child abuse to a state hotline dramatically dropped in March after schools were ordered to close.

“A lot of times the reports are either coming from teachers or you know in our case they are coming from therapists or staff that are in the homes, Working with the families, working with the kids,” said Hopkins.

But with less person to person visits and interaction with others, signs of abuse may be missed.

“I do worry that there may be families that are struggling and may be struggling to care for their children and perhaps don’t have the resources or the education to know the appropriate manner to redirect their children,” said Frank Maffei, M.D., Chairman of Pediatrics, Geisinger Women and Children’s Institute.

Dr. Maffei has long been an advocate of providing increased community resources and tougher laws to protect vulnerable children. Under no circumstances, he says, should parents use corporal punishment on their children.

“It just takes an enormous amount of awareness for parents to say ‘I’m not going to escalate what could get into a crisis and perhaps I’m going to be tempted to do something that I wouldn’t otherwise ever want to do and that is harm my child’,” said Dr. Maffei.

Now more than ever, parents must practice patience when they, themselves, may be under enormous stress as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Advocates say it’s also imperative that we all remain vigilant to look for the signs of child abuse.

Pennsylvania’s child abuse hotline called Childline remains up and running and fully staffed. The number is 1-800-932-0313.

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