March 30, 2020
By Naomi Barasch
If you’re a parent or concerned caregiver, it can be challenging to keep children safe from COVID-19 (Coronavirus) let alone other dangers such as child abuse. In the current state of quarantine, schools are closed for an extended period, and you may still be required to go to work. Here are some ways you can keep kids safe during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis.
1. Identify Triggers and Practice Self-Care
Families being together around-the-clock can create anxiety. Tension about finances, fear of the unknown, and an overall feeling of being overwhelmed could also trigger anger being taken out on a child. Identify these triggers and figure out ways to plan around them by seeking ways to help diffuse conflict and calm down. Take a short walk, do breathing exercises, or take other steps to remove yourself from the situation, even if it’s going into another room for a few minutes. Safe Horizon advocates are also great listeners. You can call our 24/7 hotline at 1-800-621-HOPE (4673) or chat with an advocate by visiting safehorizon.org/safechat.
2. Be Mindful When Choosing Your Child’s Caregiver
The reality is some parents who are essential staff for their companies, such as first responders, medical professionals, and food service workers, are required to report to work. You may have no other choice than to leave your children with a babysitter or other type of caregiver.
When considering a caregiver for your kids, be sure to vet them by taking a record of their identifying information and requesting references. Also think about their temperament, what they might be going through at the time, and how they react under pressure or tension. Even if it’s a relative, assessing their situation can help you decide if they are the right fit for spending an extended amount of time with your children during the workday.
3. Believe Children When They Tell You They are Being Hurt
At Safe Horizon, our philosophy is to always believe survivors, not just when there is a crisis like COVID-19 (Coronavirus). We believe that you should talk to your children about body safety or any touching that makes them uncomfortable. Often, children tell teachers or other trusted adults about being abused, but with schools being closed, they may open up to you, the parent or caregiver. Believing children when they disclose is the first step to getting kids the help they need.
If a child tells you they were abused and they are in New York State, call the New York State Central Register of Child Abuse & Maltreatment at 1-800-342-3720. They coordinate child abuse cases with our Child Advocacy Centers, which are open during this time.
You can also visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway for resources outside of New York State https://www.childwelfare.gov/.
We hope this information is helpful to you.