“A person’s a person, no matter how small” — Dr. Seuss

 

Karen Biernacki

April marks Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time set aside to remind the public about the need to report suspected abuse and neglect.

But this April, at-risk children are at more risk than ever before.

La Porte County’s Family Advocates points out that, with millions of people staying home to prevent the coronavirus spread, there is for some an increased risk of danger of another kind.

“Children are facing an increased risk of abuse and neglect, but many of these cases may go unreported while schools are closed. Parents are losing their jobs and struggling to provide for their families,” said Karen Biernacki, CEO of Family Advocates.

“Adults are also facing a greater risk of domestic violence, which is traumatic for victims and their children, as children are at home witnessing it. Many mental health services and child advocacy services have resorted to video-chatting, phone calls or messaging instead of meeting in person.”

”Our Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers are not able to check in with these kids face-to-face and we are worried that the higher stress in homes can lead to more abuse,” Biernacki said.  “Volunteers and staff are getting creative by connecting virtually with children and caregivers, ensuring they have information about food pickup sites, and dropping off craft bags at their doors to keep connected.”

April Greetham, director of La Porte County CASA, voiced similar concerns: “I am fearful that there will be an increase in the need for Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers as children return to school and social distancing and isolation is ended. These children will need a strong voice and the La Porte County CASA Program will need to increase the number of volunteer advocates ready to step up and be their voice.”

At this time of high isolation for children and parents, it is more important to connect with your neighbors and be aware of situations where children may be in danger, Biernacki and Greetham said.

“If you are questioning the safety of a child or feel that a family is in need of intervention, please call the Child Abuse Hotline at 800-800-5556. That call may save a child’s life and provide a struggling family with the services to support them through this crisis.”

Those interested in becoming an advocate for an abused and neglected child should consider being a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer. For more information go to the Family Advocates webpage, wwwlpfamilyadvocates.com or email Rechelle at rmccray@lpfamilyadvocates.com.

 

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