Brianne Lutterman MA, LPC
Apr 2, 2021
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in increased stress, school closures, loss of income, and social isolation for many. What some do not realize is that these factors also contribute to an increase in child abuse and neglect. There are fewer people, such as teachers, doctors, relatives and neighbors, coming into contact with the children in the community, resulting in fewer reports of child abuse and neglect being reported to Child Protective Services (CPS). This is a trend that CPS sees on a lesser scale during Summer breaks and holidays, but due to the nature of Covid-19 and a significant portion of children completing their schooling online due to safety concerns, this trend has been seen on a much larger scale.
CPS is in charge of investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect. They also help in the fight against human trafficking. CPS takes custody of children that are found to be unsafe in their current home and assists the children and their families with obtaining community resources that will ultimately encourage their overall safety. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and now, more than ever, it is vitally important for everyone to be aware of the signs of child abuse. Abuse can be physical, sexual, or emotional. Another form of child maltreatment is neglect. It is important to remember that injuries that result from a caretaker’s actions (punching, kicking, shaking, whipping) can be classified as abuse regardless of the caretakers intentions. Physical abuse is defined by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) as “a physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child, or the genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to the child.” The following are some signs to look out for concerning physical abuse:
● Frequent injuries, such as bruising, cuts, and burns that do not have explanations
● Frequent complaints of pain from the child without obvious injuries
● A lack of reaction to pain
● Fear of going home or with caregivers
● Unseasonal clothing that may hide injuries
Neglect is defined as “the failure to provide for a child’s basic needs necessary to sustain the life or health of the child, excluding failure caused primarily by financial inability unless relief services have been offered and refused.” The following are some signs of neglect of a child:
● Obvious malnourishment
● Lack of personal cleanliness/hygiene
● Consistently wearing torn/dirty clothing
● A child stealing, begging, or hoarding food
● A child being left unattended for long periods of time that is not developmentally appropriate
● Needs for vision, dental, or other medical attention being left unattended to
● Frequent tardiness or absence from school
Sexual abuse includes “fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or producing pornographic materials.” The following are some signs of sexual abuse:
● Physical signs of sexually transmitted diseases
● Injury to the genital area
● Pregnancy in a young child
● Difficulty sitting or walking
● Fear of being alone with adults of a certain sex
● Sexual comments, behaviors, or play in young children
● Sexual victimization of other children
Emotional abuse is “mental or emotional injury that results in an observable and material impairment in a child’s growth, development, or psychological functioning. It includes extreme forms of punishment such as confining a child in a dark closet, habitual scapegoating, belittling, and rejecting treatment for a child.” The following are signs of emotional abuse:
● Over compliance, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, or aggression
● Lagging in physical, emotional, and intellectual development
● Having a caregiver who belittles the child, withholds love, and seems unconcerned about the child’s problems
What You Can Do To Help:
There are numerous ways you can help prevent child abuse and neglect. DFPS has many volunteer positions available to those wishing to help assist. Volunteers may choose to sit in the hospital with sick children, answer phones for the Texas Youth Hotline, and help in the emergency resource rooms. During the Covid-19 pandemic, many may be apprehensive about venturing out to volunteer their time. There are ways that volunteers can still donate their time from the safety of their home. Volunteers may design and put together a Life Book to help a child get adopted. Volunteers may also use their skills to sew quilts and blankets for children in foster care. If you are wanting to help during the holiday period, volunteers may organize wish lists, shop for items, and help wrap Christmas presents for children in care. Volunteers may also help the families of the children in care by helping parents get to court appointments, parent education classes, counseling appointments, and visits with their children.
Whether or not you decide to volunteer your time, you can help children simply by reporting abuse and neglect when you have been made aware of it. Reports can be made online by going to www.TxAbuseHotline.org or by calling 1-800-252-5400.
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