Every year, attention is drawn to April’s Child Abuse Prevention Month, but with the focus being on slowing the spread of COVID-19, many important topics are in its shadow. However, child abuse prevention is more important than ever because of the disruptions COVID-19 has caused to daily life.
In the state and in Sacramento County, calls to Child Abuse Hotlines are down since schools discontinued classes in March when the Stay at Home Health Order was issued.
“Since the school closures, calls to the Sacramento County Department of Child, Family & Adult Services child abuse Hotline decreased by roughly 22 percent in March over the same time last year. The Department is also on target for an almost 50 percent drop in hotline calls for April,” said Michelle Callejas, Sacramento County Director of Child, Family and Adult Services.
There is concern that the lower call volume is a result of children not being able to interact with their teachers and daycare staff who regularly assess them for general wellness. Children are also not attending routine doctor visits, as many appointments have been canceled, rescheduled for later dates or are being handled virtually. Individuals in these professions are “mandated reporters” and make the majority of calls to the hotline when there is concern for a child’s safety – but those typical interactions haven’t been happening.
Be vigilant and if suspected, report child abuse
Right now, more than ever, everyone in our communities needs to be aware of how COVID-19 related stress is affecting families. In the absence of our typical interactions, communities can come together to be vigilant and address the safety and well-being of children to ensure families are supported:
- Reach out to someone you think may be struggling – ask how they are doing, ask if they need support.
- Check on your neighbors and children in your neighborhood.
- Most importantly, if you see or hear something that causes you concern and you suspect child abuse, report it as quickly as possible, by calling the Sacramento County Hotline at 916-875-5437 (875-KIDS). If there is immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
Anyone can report suspected child abuse or neglect. Calls are confidential and the credentialed social workers who answer the Hotline calls receive and assess the reports of child abuse, neglect or exploitation, as well as offer crisis intervention and provide families with information on community resources.
Ongoing need for resource parents to foster children and teens
Our community members can also help children by becoming a “Resource Family” to foster children in their communities. Loving families are especially needed for teenagers, sibling sets, as well as children with medical needs.
The Sacramento County Department of Child, Family & Adult Services is here to help and is supporting, training and providing guidance through the Resource Family Approval (RFA) program to people who want to make a positive difference in the lives of children. If you are interested in becoming a Resource Parent, please call 916-875-5543.