03 Jun OP-ED: Keeping Kids Safe Now and Long After the Pandemic
Living through the collective trauma of a global pandemic has tested the very nature of our well-being as a community. When you are unsure of what to expect next and fear for the safety of those you love, it is only natural to feel like life has become unstable in some way. Our shared experiences living through this pandemic are what thousands of children in Kentucky’s foster care system have been experiencing long before COVID-19.
As you’re reading this, there are children suffering in silence across the Commonwealth. While some counties in other states have seen jumps in child abuse cases, others like those throughout Kentucky are experiencing lower reporting numbers because the people typically at the forefront of reporting abuse, like teachers, aren’t able to have in-person contact. Although the cases of reporting child abuse in Kentucky may have decreased in recent months, advocates agree that risk factors such as isolation and stress, will only exacerbate the likelihood of abuse and neglect. After all, how can you be “healthy at home” when your home wasn’t healthy to begin with?
As physical distance has become a priority for the overall safety and health of our community, it is time for us to support each other, even if we can’t be there in person. Here are the actions you can take right now that will keep our children safe long after the COVID-19 pandemic:
- KNOW THE SIGNS. Not all symptoms of abuse result in a black eye and many linger just underneath the surface. When we know what to look for, we’ll know it’s time to take action. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of abuse online or by consulting with a child welfare professional in your area.
- REACH OUT. We cannot expect victims of violence to be the ones to ask for help. Families who are living with violence are often isolated from friends and extended family. Now is the time for us to reach out and tell our neighbors and friends that we care about them and want to help. You shouldn’t force them to talk to you about their trauma, but offering to be there for them right now can go a long way. Learn more ways to stay connected to those you care about.
- INTERRUPT OR INTERVENE. Every situation of violence is different and needs different responses. There are ways we can interrupt or intervene to support our loved ones, even during a pandemic. For example, you and your loved one can agree on a code word that will alert you that they need an interruption from you or an outside intervention from the authorities.
- PROVIDE VIRTUAL OR PHYSICAL RESPITE. While most of us can’t open our homes to family and friends who are experiencing violence during the pandemic, some of us have extra rooms and spaces we can offer, especially if a parent gets sick and can’t take care of their children. Even 30 minutes of downtime each day can be a huge help for someone parenting children who are living with violence at home.
- PROVIDE A WARM REFERRAL TO A PROGRAM OR COMMUNITY GROUP. Our local community advocates, counselors, attorneys and faith leaders work tirelessly to reach survivors and support them. Help them get connected by researching local programs or calling national hotlines that will point you to local resources.
- FOSTER OR ADOPT. Every child deserves safety and love. Now more than ever, Kentucky’s children need a place to call “home.” If you’ve ever been curious about what it would take to foster or adopt a child in Kentucky, take the next step by attending a virtual information meeting at a local or state agency.
- CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATOR. Nonprofits are relying on state and federal funding more than ever before. We encourage you to contact your state and federal legislators today. Urge them to support bills that will address the essential needs of families (i.e., healthcare, housing, fair wages, etc.) and prioritize funding for child welfare services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more by checking out our state and federal policy priorities for child welfare.
- TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. You deserve support too. Worrying about a loved one who is experiencing violence can take a toll on our emotional and physical health, especially when there are so many stressful events going on. The Kosair Charities’ Face It Movement offers some ideas for how to take care of yourself while you support others: https://faceitabuse.org/covid19/
The issues our children and families are facing today have been here long before the COVID-19 pandemic and if we do nothing, they will continue to be here long after. Our actions now will determine the kind of future we want for our children. We’re stronger together, and know that your local nonprofits will be here to help you.
Seven Counties Services / Bellewood & Brooklawn
Boys & Girls Haven
Face It Movement
Home of the Innocence
Kentucky United Methodist Home
Kentucky Youth Advocates
St. Joseph Children’s Home
Sunrise Children’s Services
Local and National Hotlines:
- All Kentuckians are mandated reporters. If you believe a child is being abused or neglected, call the Child Protection Hotline: 1-877-KYSAFE1 or 1-877-597-2331, or report online
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or thehotline.org.
- The National Sexual Assault hotline is 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or rainn.org.
- The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-4A-CHILD (422-4453) or childhelp.org/childhelp-hotline.
- Latino and Latina survivors can reach out to Casa de Esperanza at 1-651-772-1611 or casadeesperanza.org.
- Native American and Alaska Native people can reach out to StrongHearts Native Helpline at 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483) or strongheartshelpline.org.
- LGBTQ people can reach out to the Anti-Violence Project Hotline at 1-212-714-1141 or avp.org/get-help, or the Northwest Network at nwnetwork.org. LGBTQ youth who may be experiencing abuse because of their gender or sexuality can contact the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or thetrevorproject.org.
- Young people experiencing relationship or domestic violence can contact Love Is Respect at 1-866-331-9474 or loveisrespect.org.