Proposal cuts $130 million from Texas health agency to ease coronavirus-battered budget

July 9, 2020 The Statesman

State officials have proposed cutting $133 million in health services from the current budget, whittling away dollars in women’s health, child abuse protection and services for adults and children with disabilities, according to advocates.

The cuts are in response to a May 20 directive from Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen to state agencies to cut 5% from their current two-year budgets as the state grapples with the spread of the coronavirus and a weakening economy. The proposal by Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which consumes the largest portion of the state’s spending after education, could potentially reverse legislative requirements to better oversee child care facilities and court-ordered mandates to improve the state’s beleaguered foster care system.

The proposal is also sparse on details about how women’s health, family violence prevention programs and services for individuals with traumatic brain injuries — all mentioned as possible cuts — would be affected.

Full article here.

Risk factors for child abuse have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis

June 23rd, 2020

After several weeks of stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19, it is clear we are facing a crisis in child maltreatment. Well-known risk factors for the incidence of child abuse have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.

At the same time, our ability to identify children experiencing maltreatment has been drastically limited by stay-at-home orders and school closures. As long as the community organizations that most frequently serve our children are closed or restricted, it will be necessary for our local and national leaders to bring together our multidisciplinary colleagues and different groups of people together find new ways to identify and prevent child abuse.

Full article here.

Child Abuse Cases Drop 51 Percent. The Authorities Are Very Worried

New York Times

June 9, 2020

Reports of child abuse in New York City have dropped sharply since the coronavirus crisis began.

And that is worrying the authorities.

The steep decline could be a sign that an unseen epidemic of abuse is spreading behind locked doors, according to the police, prosecutors and child protection officials. As the virus has shuttered the city, the fragile system of safeguards designed to protect children has fallen apart.

Full article here.

Advocates change how they help at-risk kids during pandemic

The Post and Courier

June 7, 2020

Home is not always the safest place for children.

Advocates worry that elevated family stress, increased financial burdens and extended school closures mean that many children across South Carolina remain at a high risk for abuse and neglect during the pandemic.

The full extent of how this will impact the children is still unknown, said Carole Swiecicki, executive director of Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center in Charleston. Still, research of other large-scale community level disruptions, such as natural disasters, has shown a spike in child abuse in the aftermath of those events, she said.

That’s because during that time children are likely isolated from school, routines have been disrupted and their parents often have higher levels of stress.

Not only that, she said, but if parents are forced to return to work while schools remain closed, they might be more likely to turn to alternative child care providers that aren’t vetted by the state’s social services agency.

Full article here.

Child abuse hotline calls down 27% after pandemic hits Montana

Independent Record

June 7, 2020

From March 16 to May 20, calls reporting suspected child abuse or neglect dropped by 27% from the same period in 2019, according to data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Teachers and staff are mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect, and they’re a major source of calls into the hotline, the department said in a news release on April 6. School closures began March 16.

“Now is when we really need the entire community, no matter if one is a mandatory reporter or not, to really watch out for our kids,” said department Director Sheila Hogan.

Full article here.

Mental health hotline calls on the rise for children during pandemic

May 27, 2020


SALISBURY, Md. – While the coronavirus has impacted all of us in some way, some mental health experts say children may be struggling with anxiety and depression during the pandemic.

Doctor Kathy Seifert, a local psychologist, says across the country hotline calls and suicide rates for children above the age of ten are up. She says children could be suffering because of fear of the virus and a change of routine as they’re out of school.

Dr. Seifert adds that there are some warning signs parents can look out for in their children, including a change of mood, excessive worrying about the virus, plus changes in sleep.

Full article here.

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice Urges Congress to Provide Emergency Child Welfare Funding

May 8, 2020. In this letter, Gov. Justice urges Congress to provide emergency funding for the following programs:

  • $1 billion for Community-based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) Grants
  • $20 million in Kinship Navigator Programs
  • $1 billion for Title IV-B Part 2
  • $500 million for CAPTA Title 1
  • $30 million for the Court Improvement Program
  • Increase FMAP for Title IV-E Prevention Program
  • Increase funding to Title IV-E Chafee by $500 million
  • Provide $100 million in one-time emergency support for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program.

Read full letter here.

COVID-19 impact on local child welfare system

OMAHA, Neb. — The child welfare system in the Eastern Service Area of Nebraska, that’s Sarpy and Douglas counties, went through a power change in the last year. New contractor, Saint Francis Ministries, officially took over in January. Now they’re faced with the challenge of helping vulnerable children during a pandemic.

Saint Francis oversees about 1,600 children in the Eastern Service Area.

“Dealing with the sensitive topics of child welfare, children are having a really difficult time understanding why they can’t actually see their parents,” CASA for Douglas County executive director Kimberly Thomas said.

Link here.

Commissioner of Virginia Department of Social Services Letter to Congress

In this letter Commissioner Duke Storen urges supports for federal funding including:

  • $1 billion for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) Grants to help states and local organizations better meet the increased need for child abuse prevention programs and adapt services to account for social distancing.
  • $500 million for CAPTA Title I to help ensure child welfare agencies’ response, investigations, and interventions of child abuse and neglect are not dangerously upended.
  • An increase in FMAP for Title IV-E Prevention Program to help make affordable mental health and substance disorder services and other interventions that support family stabilization and keep children safe but out of foster care.
  • An increase to the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) is needed to help states fill in gaps to critical services including child protective services, child abuse prevention supports, domestic violence services, and foster care.

Letter here.

Letter from Secretary Ross Hunter of Washington’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families to Congressional Delegation

In this letter, Sec Hunters outlines recommends areas in need of federal stimulus, including:

  • Social Service Block Grant (SSBG) increase of $100 million for Washington State
  • Resources to serve older youth in Extended Foster Care (EFC)
  • The purchase of concrete goods, such as reliable technology for brth parents, foster parents, caregivers, service providers and others
  • The ability to provide monetary support to kinship caregivers, in both formal and informal care settings, while mitigating the risk of child abuse and neglect.

Read letter here.

With kids stuck at home, ER doctors see more severe cases of child abuse

Angela Haslett used to spend her days asking children about the people who hurt them.

The calls came from police or child protective services, sometimes 10 to 15 a week, most of them about sexual abuse. The children would sit across from her in a soundproof room at SafeSpot Children’s Advocacy Center in Fairfax, Va., as the forensic interviewer asked in a soft voice: “Has somebody done something to your body that they shouldn’t have?”

Lately, it’s gone quiet. Since the coronavirus pandemic forced schools to close and families to stay home, the calls have slowed to two to five a week, with more of them involving children with injuries so visible — a broken arm, a beat-up face — an adult had to seek medical help.

Read more here

Things We Can All Do to Strengthen Families and Why It Matters

April 2020

Alliance for Strong Families and Communities

…During this moment when we are widening our circles, take time to notice the powerful and positive effects neighbors can have on one another. In many ways, we are well-equipped to help each other weather this storm of stress and fear brought on or exacerbated by COVID-19. We can help to build protective factors to keep each other strong. Protective factors are things that can increase the health and well-being of all people – children, adults, families, and communities. For parents, these factors include social connections, quality childcare, and access to services that reduce stress. Helping parents strengthen their foundation of protective factors, especially during this unpredictable time, will make them more likely to withstand and recover from the pressures of the pandemic. Protective factors are particularly important during this crisis, when we have seen increases in calls to national hotlines for parent support and child maltreatment, because these factors help to decrease the risk of harm. …

Link here

In Colorado, Protecting Children During Isolation Orders

Rocky Mountain PBS

Child welfare staff members are required to meet with families in person when they open an investigation after receiving referrals that indicate children may be at risk. Those requirements have not loosened in the era of social distancing.

DHS officials say calls to the child abuse hotline fell while Denver Public Schools students were on an extended spring break for three weeks in response to coronavirus. The department said it received 1,246 calls in the first 15 days of March but only 794 calls in the final half of the month.

New story here.

Children Seem to Be Less Vulnerable to the Coronavirus. The Pandemic May Still Put Them at Risk.

Time Magazine


APRIL 9, 2020

Of the many ways that the pandemic is making us rethink our humanity, none is more important, or urgent, than the overall protection of children. They may not be as susceptible to the virus as other groups, but they are especially vulnerable to so many of the secondary impacts of the pandemic on society.

Here here for full article.

How The Coronavirus Is Affecting The Foster Care System And Its Children (North Carolina)

April 4, 2020

WFAE, Charlotte’s NPR News Source

Visitations with their birth parents have been suspended and permanent placements are being delayed. Kim Ford is the foster care supervisor for Bethany Christian Services which provides adoption and foster care services. She and others predict that more children will have a need for foster care as parents struggle to cope with lost jobs and stress because of COVID-19.

Ford, “The number is expected to grow as the stress level rises for families that are trying to stay intact. And so we’re going to see more children coming into care, especially with mental health issues, job situations, unemployment. So that is definitely a need that we’re going to see spiking.”

Story here.

The Coronavirus Could Cause a Child Abuse Epidemic

April 7, 2020

New York Times editorial by Dr. Nina Agrawal, a child abuse pediatrician

As part of virtual visits, child health providers should routinely ask families how they are doing and offer help. Just as fever is a warning sign of infection, physicians must recognize the warning signs of abuse.As doctors, we can share information on parent support, domestic violence, suicide hotlines with those who we think might be at risk and make sure to follow up by phone to see whether parents have questions. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers guidance to pediatricians on identifying, diagnosing and treating abusive head trauma and a tip sheet for parents dealing with the stresses of the coronavirus crisis.

Read editorial here.

State concerned about fewer child-abuse calls (Montana)

April 7, 2020

A sharp decrease in the number of calls to Montana’s child abuse and neglect hotline has officials with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services very concerned. Prior to the closure, the hotline was receiving about 765 calls per week. But since March 15, when the closure order went into effect, the number of calls made to the hotline has dropped to an average of 425 calls per week, according to the press release.

Full article here.

Why surge in foster care placement will follow COVID-19 pandemic (Georgia)

April 07, 2020

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Although it’s difficult to predict, Reed told me it is very likely her department will see an increase in reports as children resume face-to-face contact with their teachers, day care providers, physicians, therapists and others. “Traditionally, DFCS has consistently seen a spike in reports when children return to school, so we anticipate that trend will continue in the late summer and early fall,” she said.

Full article here.

Children more at risk for abuse and neglect amid coronavirus pandemic, experts say

March 21, 2020

USA Today

Hundreds of thousands of vulnerable U.S. children could face a heightened risk of abuse and neglect as coronavirus-related school closures keep them at home and away from the nation’s biggest group of hotline tipsters: educators. Teachers, administrators, school counselors and other educational professionals report one in every five child mistreatment claims in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Article here.

Why child welfare experts fear a spike of abuse during COVID-19


Child welfare experts are most concerned about three conditions happening right now.

Routines are being disrupted. With businesses, schools and daycares shuttered, parents and children are in each other’s constant company, sometimes in close quarters. That may be welcome time spent together, but it can also be incredibly stressful when coupled with the demands of work, bills and other anxieties. Children, too, may act out when they are under stress.

Jobs have evaporated. By March 28, 6.6 million Americans had filed first-time jobless claims in a single week. Before that, nearly a fifth of Americans said they’d lost wages or jobs due to COVID-19, in a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll conducted March 13-14. That means more households are straining under the weight of debt and economic insecurity.

Children are isolated from others who care. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the act of going to school and being seen by teachers, staff and fellow students stretched a modest net to help catch children who might be mistreated. Before, someone outside the home might spot a bruise and ask how things were going. Amid social distancing, that oversight is gone.

“These are all conditions that set up what might lead to child abuse and neglect,” said Sege, who served on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Full story here.

Foster kids who can’t visit parents are struggling under coronavirus isolation, advocates

NBC News

April 2, 2020

For parents working through the process of being reunited with their children in foster care, it’s not just about not seeing their children in person. Many family courts are limiting their work to emergency removals of children and not hearing reunification cases,as in the state of New York, which can be devastating to parents, advocates say.

Article here.