April 27, 2020 — April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Identifying child abuse in our community can be tricky. However, as we enter week six of sheltering in place and venturing out only for essential travel and necessities, child abuse and mistreatment can slip under the radar even easier. Children are less visible right now. Regular school has been canceled for the rest of the spring and so have play dates and parties. This means that children are no longer under the supervision of teachers, counselors and other adults who are often the ones to report suspected abuse or neglect to the authorities.
The Mendocino County Sherriff’s Department reported child abuse cases have jumped by 36% in March, compared to March of 2019. One reason for this spike may be due to a corresponding increase in domestic violence, which is up 25%. When law enforcement responds to a domestic violence call and there are child present on the scene, they must cross report to Child Protective Services.
As victim advocate organizations and family resources centers scramble to adjust their programs to abide by social distancing and ramp up their support services, the stigma associated with reaching out and getting help keeps some families away.
Earlier this month, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a $42 million package to protect California youth who are at heightened risk of abuse and mistreatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The investment includes $7 million for additional social worker outreach and $3 million Family Resources Centers — organizations that are on the frontline supporting the community during crises.