JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One in four children across the Sunshine State will be in poverty due to the pandemic, according to recent studies.
Kids in poverty are seven times more likely to experience child neglect and three times more likely to experience abuse.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a chance to raise awareness about an issue that is often kept silent.
“We know that no child deserves to be abused,” said Ernest Hamilton, Children’s Home Society of Florida Regional Executive Director.
Just three months into the pandemic, the US saw an increase of 2.5 million children living in poverty.
Experts say child poverty will increase 25% from its pre-COVID rate.
In Florida, that would mean an additional 210,000 children living in these conditions.
“With stay-at-home orders and quarantine forced them into isolation we saw a drop in calls to the child abuse hotline and that’s because kids weren’t under the same watchful eye of teachers and the community reporters. So as the pandemic continued, we saw a devastation increase in emergency room abuse cases,” said Hamilton.
“It can go from neglecting a child’s basic needs for food and water also medical. And if they need something that’s not providing for them at the time, even education at the time. As well as with abuse, it could be physical it could be emotional during all of this along with mental or it could even be sexual as well so those are the different types of forms of abuse and neglect that could occur in a crisis when someone is dealing with a lot of stress, " said Branden Tharp, Children’s Home Society of Florida clinical counselor.
Children’s Home Society of Florida or CHS provides resources to protect children and strengthen families.
“A lot of those stressors that people are feeling right now with the pandemic can lead to that. So, a typical stressor is not being around your friends or the extreme of losing a job or family members who are going through sickness. Kids feel that. Everyone feels that all together as a family unit and could lead to possible dire consequences for these kids during this pandemic,” said Tharp.
There could be a more than 15% increase of children going into the foster care system, according to recent statistics, costing taxpayers an additional $108 million.
“The way the cases are coming into DCF is at a higher rate than normal so it’s overwhelming just to the teams that we work with because as soon as you think you closed a case you might get like 3 cases coming in that same day,” said Allison McGregor, a dependency case manager supervisor.
CHS urges that if you see something, say something.
You can find resources on how to combat and report child abuse here.
And Dr. Jennifer Andrews, a member of the University of Florida’s Child Protection team, joined us on The Moring Show to explain the signs of child abuse to watch for: