As the Covid-19 pandemic picked up steam in the early spring of 2020 in Pennsylvania and schools were shut down, child abuse doctors began to notice a disturbing trend. The number of serious injuries to young children began to grow. Dr. Lori Frasier, chief of Penn State Children's Hospital's child abuse pediatrics division, reported a “surge of some kind.” More and more children, some very young, were being admitted to the hospital with serious injuries, many to the head or abdomen. Why the increase and how is it connected to the pandemic?
Connection to the Pandemic
With schools closed and families sheltering in place, teachers, doctors, and other child care professionals had no contact with children. When signs of child abuse appear,this is the group of people that generally sees and reports them. Being stuck at home with their parents, children who experienced abuse had no one from the outside to notice and offer help.
Fear for the Children
The child welfare system feared for the safety of children trapped at home with their abusers. Another result of the pandemic was the closing of courtrooms which delayed child abuse hearings. Child abuse seemed to be unchecked as there was no one to discover and report it. These children were in danger.
A Chance for Change
In urban areas, the child welfare system tended to sometimes be overzealous when dealing with Black and Latinx families. Officials in some areas that discovered a decline in reports of child abuse realized that this did not necessarily mean unreported abuse was happening, especially with minority families. A group of mothers and attorneys saw a chance to revamp the system. Without the intense scrutiny of teachers and doctors, minority families might have the opportunity to finally be heard and get help.
An Updated System
The advocates for change felt that rather than giving child protective services the uncontested power to remove children from their homes, the parents of these children should have their own “Miranda rights.” The idea is to give minority families the same sense of dignity and respect that non-minority families experience. This would include being considered innocent until proven guilty and receiving support after a call for help rather than immediate suspicion.
On the other side are those who feel that this amounts to an abolishment of the child welfare system, and an unplanned one at that. Without the system, many more children would suffer, as the Pennsylvania Covid numbers suggest. In the first half of 2020, 155 children died due to suspected child abuse or neglect. This was higher than the total of 144 for all of 2019. Doctors in Pennsylvania are still concerned about the welfare of children stuck at home.. In fact, one of the reasons the CDC gives for reopening schools is so teachers and education professionals can spot and report signs of child abuse.
The pandemic kept children home from school and away from the eyes of education professionals who seek out signs of abuse. Without this monitoring, some officials have become more suspicious. If you have been wrongfully accused or questioned about harming your child, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team have the skill and experience and will fight for you every step of the way.