Colorado’s stay-at-home order is leaving children across the state vulnerable to the secondary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as the rate of child abuse and neglect is expected to rise. Although the stay-at-home order is helping to flatten the curve, there is concern that the increased stress at home may lead to rising numbers of child abuse and neglect cases.
According to co4kids.org, risk factors for child abuse or neglect include social isolation, family stress, parenting stress, financial uncertainty and insecurity, and the absence of childcare or school. The COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home order have increased all these risk factors.
While the stay-at-home order is in place, children are isolated from their support networks; there are fewer adult eyes on vulnerable children and at-risk youth. Typically, suspected child abuse or neglect is reported through the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline System. The hotline routes calls to the appropriate counties ensuring that the county’s Department of Human Services is able to capture information critical to ensure each call is handled quickly and appropriately. A majority of the calls to the child abuse hotline are from third parties, like teachers, coaches, or doctors. According to co4kids.org, calls from teachers, school staff, and childcare providers make up nearly 40% of calls to the hotline.
There is a direct correlation between the number of hotline calls and the closure of schools. Colorado’s Office of Child, Youth, and Families, report that fewer people are calling to report child abuse and neglect since COVID-19 shut down schools and other family services; calls to the child abuse hotline have dropped by more than 50% in the past month. “We are concerned about this significant drop in calls, particularly because children and youth who may be experiencing abuse and neglect are now home all day and isolated,” Minna Castillo Cohen, director of the Office of Children, Youth and Families said. “While schools are closed, it is even more important that everyone call 844-CO-4-Kids if they are concerned about the safety and well-being of a child or youth. If there is an immediate threat, dial 911.”
The Harris Law Firm is working remotely and remains committed to families across Colorado during COVID-19. To speak with a lawyer, contact us.