The cycle of child abuse is exasperated during the coronavirus shutdown

For the public good and in accordance with current guidance, our person-to-person services came to an abrupt end in early March. Much of our funding did, too, as it was tied to our ability to provide those services and training. Meanwhile, families already under stress are feeling more of it — as we all are. The difference is that many of the resources they had to cope with these and other challenges are now gone. Ironically, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and one of our biggest fundraising times of the year…I’m afraid this year it will not be something to celebrate.

I know these are scary and uncertain times. I can’t help but think how much more scary and uncertain they are for vulnerable children and families. For many in our region, home is a place of refuge and comfort, where they are refreshed and recharged and provided with the foundation for healthy living. Far too many of our families have a different experience; many are living with neglect, abuse, chronic poverty and toxic stress. Schools and other activities can provide needed structure and support, however that is also now gone. The loss of these routines and safe trusted adults provides an extra level of risk for already vulnerable children. Without these safety nets, children are more likely to demonstrate anxiety, fear, sadness and disruptive behaviors that may show in hyperactivity, aggression and generalized worry. This is challenging in the best of times, but add to it parents that are already stressed, and the risk of immediate and longterm harm is great. Caregivers are more likely to resort to risky parenting strategies and potentially harmful reactions out of stress, exhaustion, lack of resources and their own struggles. As an example a parent called this week with a child who has been sexually abused in the past. Her husband works third shift and is frustrated by their children being home during the day, loud and disruptive to his sleep. While not physically at risk, she said she knows that tensions are high and she is worried about the days and weeks ahead, fearing a response that is emotionally harmful at the very least.

We have had to close our Cincinnati facility and furlough all staff. We did this vs. layoff so that they could remain on our health insurance. (One of our board members donated the funds to cover the employee portion of health insurance for the first month, as he didn’t want to add to their stress during the uncertainty of how long this will last.) In KY, we have suspended in person services but are still providing therapy via telehealth services via Zoom. We are offering phone or video counseling to parents who are struggling and need support and guidance. For the broader Greater Cincinnati community, we’ve used social media to provide resources and information to try to reach all families with encouragement and help. For example we share videos of our Kids on the Block puppets reading stories to school children and our therapists leading calming activities with tip sheets, family activities and resources. Who knows whether our social media efforts are reaching those that need it most, but at least we are doing what we can.

Every donation helps. The current crisis will end long before the ongoing, behind-the-headlines crisis of child abuse, and we want to be sure that we can still be there for the people in our region who need us.  Thank you in advance for your support!

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