Child advocates find alternative ways to reach children, prevent abuse during pandemic

Posted at 9:32 PM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 23:08:44-04

CLEVELAND — The pandemic may be making it more difficult for child advocacy groups to detect cases of possible abuse and get help for vulnerable children.

Carrie Joseph, the prevention, education and inclusion manager for the Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center (DVCAC), said during the pandemic, advocates have had less interaction with children than usual, and that has made things tough.

"They were hearing and finding younger children with more severe cases were coming through the hospitals," Joseph said of the Child Advocacy Center, noting that there were fewer sexual assault examinations at the hospitals. However, she said the number of cases overall was about the same during the pandemic as it typically is.

Joseph said children are not at "the traditional places where we could see them," such as schools or after-school programs, during the pandemic.

But advocates are trying to find alternatives to make sure they can keep in contact with children. That includes telehealth therapy sessions, even though those can be a little more challenging.

"The environment may not be conducive for a confidential-style therapy session," Joseph said. "There may be other people in the area."

Some therapists and advocates do make home visits, Joseph said, and can also meet people in "different, alternate locations in the community."

Joseph said she and other advocates are also focused on educating people about how to recognize possible child abuse and report it to children and family services.

"If it's not an actual report of abuse, I think some people feel like they have to look for and confirm that something's wrong. But if it's just a reasonable suspicion, a call can be made," Joseph said.

People can help by checking in with children they know personally and asking how they're doing.

"Sometimes if you know that child well enough, you'll know if something's not right," Joseph said. "Sometimes if you have that bond with that child, they'll share that, you know, maybe something's not OK."

Sometimes, Joseph said, people can also ask the adults in the home.

"They may not come out and say exactly what's happening, but they might indicate there's some different stressors going on and there may be some things they need support with," Joseph said. "So just even adding support to families that we know have limited resources, have been isolated for a period of time, maybe different stressors have come up. They're out of work, different things like that."

To report suspected child abuse to the state's Office of Families and Children, click here for more information.

You can call (216) 391-HELP for 24-hour help from the Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center with questions about what to look for if you suspect child abuse.

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