How to Prevent Child Abuse in a Pandemic

How to Prevent Child Abuse in a Pandemic

By Carlos Merchan, Home Visiting Program Manager, and Felix Hernandez, Advocacy and Fatherhood Supervisor

As adults, we have a lot of responsibilities, and that can be overwhelming even when we’re not in the middle of a global pandemic. Understandably, over the last year many families have struggled to sustain an environment where children can blossom and thrive. Schools were closed, people lost their jobs, and others had to juggle childcare and telework. Meanwhile, bills piled up, food insecurity increased, and feelings of isolation and fear grew to new levels as we worried about our health and the health of our loved ones.

We all want the best for our children, but dealing with these high-stress situations can lead to an increased risk for child abuse and neglect. In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month this April, let’s look at how we can keep our families together even during a crisis.

All families have strengths and are able to overcome difficulties with the right support and guidance. Here are a few ways to increase protective factors at home to reduce the risk for child abuse and neglect:

Connecting with Your Children

  • Look at the extra time at home together as an opportunity to bond with your children in new ways so you can gain more understanding about your kids and yourself as a parent.
  • Your children are dealing with their own stress, so be attentive to their cues and the emotional response you provide.
  • Support your child’s social emotional skills development. Have proper expectations for what children can do at different ages so you can make appropriate decisions based on your child and their developmental readiness.

Taking Care of Yourself

  • Always be compassionate with yourself and learn from every experience. Look out for your own mental health so you can be the parent you want to be. (Try one of these meditation apps when you start feeling tense.)
  • Build up your support system so you have people available when you need a helping hand. Find support from formal services, as well as from members of your community such as neighbors or relatives.
  • Take advantage of virtual gatherings to connect more frequently with friends and relatives that live far away.

At Mary’s Center, we have seen that with access to supportive services, families can absolutely still flourish in challenging times. We offer long-term, hands-on support to provide the information, resources, and skills you need to build a solid family foundation. Learn more here.

These local and national resources can also provide support:

Hotlines for Urgent Assistance

  • Access HelpLine from DC Department of Behavioral Health: 1-888-793-4357
  • Prince George’s County Crisis Response: 301-429-2185
  • Montgomery County 24-Hour Crisis Support: 240-777-4000
  • Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) Hotline: 202-671-7233

COVID-19 Resources

Parenting Resources from Zero to Three: