Impact of COVID-19 on Child Abuse: Considerations for Student Safety & Support
In April of 2021, the World Health Organization released the statement, "Violence Against Children; A Hidden Crisis of the COVID-19 Pandemic." Like you, we are very concerned about the increased risk of neglect, sexual abuse and exploitation of children during these perilous times.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services’ 4th National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, teachers identify and report more child abuse cases to child protection authorities than any other professionals - including doctors, hospital personnel, police and social service agencies.
Child Lures Prevention/Teen Lures Prevention has created a helpful bulletin (in collaboration with Molly A. Rivers, MHA, DCFI, Associate Director/Forensic Interviewer, Holly’s House in Evansville, IN) for use in schools and other child-serving organizations: Impact of COVID-19 on Child Abuse: Considerations for Student Safety & Support. Please download and share this bulletin freely.
Suggestions for Teaching Think First & Stay Safe™ via Remote-Instruction to Students in School Classrooms:
Clients are encouraged to teach the regular scripted Think First & Stay Safe™ lesson plans via secure online platforms (WebEx, Google Meet, etc) using the scripted lesson plans, grade-specific PowerPoint presentations & student videos - exactly as if physically in a classroom with students. If interactive learning is not available, simply pause after each
question to allow students time to formulate their own answers, then provide the correct (scripted) answers.
(As per copyright law, clients must refrain from creating video or other self-contained distance learning content from the Think First & Stay Safe™ materials.)
COVID-19 CONSIDERATIONS: Important personal safety concepts* to communicate to students during Think First & Stay Safe™ Lessons and Teen Lures TV Newscast™ Class Discussions:
- Reach out to a Trusted Adult however you can. Call, text, email if possible.
- Trust your gut! If a person “in charge” tells you to do something that you know is wrong, against the law, or sets off that siren in your gut, say no and tell a Trusted Adult.
- Even though you may not see your Trusted Adult as often, they're still there for you and want to help in any way they can.
- Safety is number one priority right now! Just like wearing a mask, washing hands, and social distancing, your personal safety needs to be protected as well.
- Don’t feel like you can’t talk to a Trusted Adult about personal safety just because there are other things going on in the world right now. Tell another Trusted Adult if necessary, and keep telling until you get the help you need.
- While participating in online meetings, clubs, etc., there should be safe adults monitoring these meetings. If something happens while using online meeting rooms, report to a Trusted Adult immediately.
Suggestions for Teaching Teen Lures TV Newscast™ via Remote-Instruction:
Via a secure school-based online platform, students may present the (10) student-led Teen Lures TV Newscasts within their school/organization; adult educators may likewise facilitate the corresponding (10) scripted Class Discussions for Grades 7-8 and 9-12 via the same secure school-based online platform.
• Consider reviewing (age-appropriately) local/national news stories about online safety for children and teens.
Recommendations for Helping Students throughout the school year:
- Continue to announce availability of resources and help for all students.
- Specifically mention neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, food & housing insecurity.
- Introduce the person to whom students can talk;
- If in-person and wearing masks, consider introducing the person (health educator, counselor, nurse) behind a glass window without their mask on, or have the adult hold up a photo of themselves without a mask on.
~Much friendlier face without the mask on – and the child can make the connection to the “friendlier face.”
~Conversely, teens seem to take comfort in the semi-anonymity of mask wearing during disclosure/forensic interview.
- If remote, provide specific school staff contact information to parents, guardians and students.
- Let students know school staff is there for them – right now and at any time in the future.
- If something has happened to a student during the COVID-19 pandemic, let them know:
- they are not the only one to whom it happened
- the mistreatment/abuse was not their fault.
- caring adults are available to help them feel safe again and begin to heal.
- CDC: Support for People Experiencing Abuse
- OCHA, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: COVID-19: Urgent Need for Child Protection Services to Mitigate the Risk of Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Worldwide.
- WHO Joint Leaders' Statement: "Violence Against Children; A Hidden Crisis of the COVID19 Pandemic"
Program Support for Think First & Stay Safe™/Teen Lures TV Newscast™ Implementation:
* Recommendations by Crystal Sisson, Director of Prevention at Holly's House Child and Adult Victim Advocacy Center and co-Author of study, Sexual Abuse Disclosure Mediates the Effect of an Abuse Prevention Program (Think First & Stay Safe™) on Substantiation, published in the Journal of Child Maltreatment, 2019. Holly’s House has taught Think First and Stay Safe™ for the past 10 years throughout 5 counties. Holly's House has conducted 6 years of pre-and post test evaluations, with control groups, of 38,000 students from 1800 classrooms showing students consistently improve their knowledge and skills each year.