By Allison Stephens and Bob Sege
Many people, especially those who work in the child welfare system, expected a dramatic increase in child abuse when COVID-19 hit. After all, everything was disrupted, children and their parents were out of school and work, and people were physically isolated from each other. As far as we can tell, there was not a child abuse epidemic. Perhaps the emergency supports offered during the pandemic worked. If so, we can learn from our success.
The HOPE framework, the Center for the Study of Social Policy’s Strengthening Families Approach, and the CDCs Essentials for Childhood, all point to the need for safe, stable, and secure environments for children and families. Preventing child abuse is an important part of giving children access to those environments. For some time, research has shown that family stress and disruption are risks for child abuse. The pandemic caused rising unemployment, distress, isolation, and loss of family supports like child care in addition to the loss of one million lives in the US alone. This increased strain on families raised concerns about a possible epidemic of child abuse.