Our nation’s current situation is very stressful, for both children and parents. Outlets to help parents find respite which previously existed, such as daycares, babysitters or home visitation programs, are often either shut down or functioning very differently. Many families may feel that they have no outlets to turn to for help. During other periods of societal stress, such as economic recessions, most children were still in schools and receiving the benefits associated with attending, which they now lack. During periods of intense societal stress, such as natural disasters or economic crises, we frequently see increases in child abuse and neglect and domestic violence. Our current situation is unfortunately appearing to show these increases as well. Household accidents and accidental poisonings are also showing a spike, likely due to children being home during times when they typically would be at schools or daycares.
What can families do? As I write this, society has yet to fully “open up,” although there are promising signs that this may happen soon. However, at least here in Missouri and in Illinois, schools are closed for the remainder of the year and many summer camp programs have been canceled. The next school year may start later than usual. Many daycares and other facilities are still closed. Many parents and caregivers have lost their jobs, and stress levels are still high. Where can families turn for help and assistance?
In Missouri and Illinois, all healthcare workers, daycare workers, educational professionals and clergy are “mandated reporters” meaning that when they suspect child abuse and neglect, they are mandated to report to Child Protective Services (Children’s Division in Missouri or Division of Child and Family Services in Illinois) and an investigation may then take place. With schools, daycares and churches closed and many doctor’s offices not doing routine visits, or families avoiding going to the doctor, these normal routes of checking for abuse and neglect no longer exist. In Missouri, reports to Children’s Division have dropped at least 50% since sheltering at home began. This does not mean that actual rates of abuse and neglect have dropped; it only means that it is taking place but not being reported. This is a very scary concept for those of us who care for children. What can we do?
I encourage everyone to think about how they can help their friends and family who may be stressed or facing economic hardships, or who may have more children unexpectedly in the home. Perhaps you can call friends or family members and ask if you can help deliver food or other items to their homes. As stay-at-home restrictions begin to lift, we can offer to help watch our friends’ or relatives’ children to give them a break.
Although many home visitation programs are not currently operating as usual, there are still resources that parents can turn to. Missouri KidsFirst offers a variety of resources online that families can access including on their Facebook and Twitter pages.
For families who may need emergency assistance, the following phone hotlines may be needed:
1-866-FOR-LIGHT (866-367-5444) or Text “LIGHT” to 741741
For all Families: 1-800-552-8522
Kinship Navigator Line for kinship caregiving: 1-833-KIN-4-KID
If you are unable to speak safely, you can log onto https://www.thehotline.org/ or text LOVEIS to 22522
1-800-985-5990 or Text: “TalkWithUs” to 66746
There is also a free mandated reporter training online at https://protectmokids.com/
The Missouri Department of Social Services offers COVID-related updates and resources at https://dss.mo.gov/covid-19/ and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services offers updates and resources at https://health.mo.gov/living/healthcondiseases/communicable/novel-coronavirus/
Other Parenting Resources
The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center offers supportive resources for families. Their website includes information on how to talk with children about the COVID-19 pandemic, specific resources for children with developmental delays and disabilities, and information on how to support children’s emotional well-being. www.ectacenter.org/topics/disaster/coronavirus-talking.asp
The Child Mind Institute has digital resources in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including Daily Facebook video chats with clinicians, remote evaluations and telemedicine, phone consultations regarding children at home, comprehensive resources for parents and daily email tips for parenting during the crisis. www.childmind.org/coping-during-covid-19-resources-for-parents/
The Fussy Baby Network has a Fussy Baby Warmline for parents. Their resources include video home visits, parent web groups, Facebook Live Sessions for infant massage, baby yoga, play and connection ideas. There are currently NO FEES for Fussy Baby services during “shelter-in-place”. The helpline services are in English and Spanish. 1-888-431-BABY (2229) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook: @FussyBabyNetwork www.erikson.edu/fussy-baby-network/
Parenting for Lifelong Heath has a website with parenting tips related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Resources are available in English as well as other languages. www.covid19parenting.com/
It is important during this unprecedented time that parents feel that they can ask for help. If you are feeling overwhelmed, it is okay to step away from your children for a few moments. It is okay to call a friend or family member or even a local agency to assist you. In addition, the St. Louis Crisis Nursery (https://www.crisisnurserykids.org/) remains open at this time. If you are a parent and are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, please know that you are not alone!