EARLY YEARS: April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

Published: Apr. 21, 2020 at 9:44 AM EDT
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April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Child abuse and neglect often go unreported under normal circumstances. During a quarantine, it can be even worse.

"These kids are kind of isolated as well. And the ones that are already at risk aren't having any other interactions with people outside their homes. They're not going to school. They have virtual doctor's appointments, and these are the people that report child abuse and neglect," says Michelle Wright with HopeTree Family Services.

With so many people losing their jobs, the stress levels for parents are higher.

"Anytime that there's financial instability, which leads to poverty, there's an increased risk factor for abuse and neglect," says Wright.

If a child has to be removed from a home, that's where foster families come in. There are about 5,000 kids in foster care right now in Virginia.

HopeTree Family Services offers foster care support, but says the pandemic is making it more difficult to recruit and train new foster parents. It's also tougher for those already serving children.

"It's putting more of a strain on families who are already foster parents that are needing to take in more children than they would normally take, and it just stresses their capacity to be able to meet everybody's needs," says HopeTree's Jason Masching.

Reunification with a child's biological parents is the ultimate goal.

But the pandemic is leaving many foster kids in limbo, preventing visitations and delaying court dates.

"In times like this, when they would be maybe meeting their biological families once a week or every few weeks, that's not necessarily able to happen right now," says Masching.

Wright adds, "They already have such a lack of control of everything that goes on in their lives. They did not choose this. So, now not being able to interact in person with their families and mostly, virtually, that puts a big strain on them."

It is a difficult time for these kids, and the need for foster families is huge.

Training through HopeTree Family Services is being offered online.

The next online training session is happening Thursday, April 23 at 6 p.m..

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