The COVID-19 pandemic has created stressful conditions for all of us. Now more than ever, families are finding themselves facing many of the risk factors for child abuse and neglect: stress, financial uncertainty, food insecurity, gaps in childcare, and lack of normal routines. Even in families that usually have low-stress and a great support network, parents may lose patience and lash out due to the pressures of these complicated and uncertain times. To add to this challenging situation, school closures and stay at home orders mean there are less opportunities for children to receive support outside of their homes. Before community members were required to keep physical distance from each other, children interacted with many adults throughout their day and someone was more likely to see a vulnerable child in need of support. Now that children and families have less direct contact with mandated reporters like teachers, counselors, and child-care providers, signs of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse may be left unseen and not reported.
You have a role in ensuring that children grow up in a supportive, stable and nurturing environment. The Child and Family Services Division encourages everyone to play a role in making Arlington a safer place for children and families. By making sure that parents have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to care for their children, we can help prevent child abuse and neglect.
Arlington residents can reduce caregiver stress and episodes of child abuse by checking-in on each other during the pandemic. Here are a few small acts of kindness to lend support to children and ease of the stress of their caregivers:
- Arrange a virtual check-in or phone call
- Lend a listening ear
- Drop off coloring books, food, toilet paper or personal hygiene items to a neighbor
- Help your neighbor find resources in the community
Research shows that protective factors are an important part of healthy families. These are conditions or attributes that help ease risk of child abuse and neglect while promoting healthy development and well-being. Promoting the following protective factors is one of the most helpful ways to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect:
- Being able to adapt during challenging times is important for parents and caregivers.
- Knowing what to expect from a child or youth based on their development helps families to enjoy each other more.
- Staying connected to family, friends allows families to build trusting relationships, get advice and solve problems together.
- Understanding when and where to find concrete resources in times of need can make a huge difference for families.
- Supporting children to manage their emotions and behaviors reduces household stress.
If you see a child who may be in danger, please do not hesitate to report your concerns. Hope and help is simply a phone call away by dialing the Child Protective Services’ 24-hour hotline at 703-228-1500. Help is available! If you are feeling overwhelmed by the pressures of life in this time of COVID-19, Arlington County’s CPS hotline staff are available to provide you with guidance and referrals to supportive services.
Here are some helpful resources to support families in managing stress, coping with crisis, and supporting their children through the outbreak of Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).
Parenting Tips and Protective Factors
Child Supervision Guidelines
Talking to Children and Youth about COVID-19