[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
Views 6,609
Citations 0
JAMA Pediatrics Patient Page
April 24, 2020

Child Abuse Awareness Month During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Florida, Gainesville
  • 2Department of Health Outcomes and Biomedical Informatics, University of Florida, Gainesville
JAMA Pediatr. Published online April 24, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.1459

April is Child Abuse Awareness month, even during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Social isolation, the public health measure now in place across the world, is also a proven risk factor for child abuse. Other risks include stress, uncertain access to food and housing, and worries about making ends meet. Owing to the current COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize that parents and caregivers feel overwhelmed with these stresses. They may be experiencing job loss, childcare struggles, and schedule changes.

With schools and daycare centers closed for weeks or more, children are no longer in the watchful eyes of their community. Teachers, counselors, extended family, and friends who routinely see children are now physically separated and unable to provide the same social and emotional support. Many school or community programs that prevent child abuse are currently on hold. The vital social distancing that attempts to flatten the curve for COVID-19 hinders these prevention efforts.

Research shows that all types of child abuse increase during school holidays and summer breaks and worsen during natural disasters such as hurricanes. We expect that throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, when emotions are running high and children are more socially isolated than ever, child abuse will surge. Much of this abuse will be unreported.

While we face these challenges, parents and friends can help reduce the risk of child abuse in several ways. First, call, video chat, or email friends and family. This virtual contact and support can be a good boost for parents and gives children the opportunity to connect with someone outside of their home. Second, establish and stick to a family schedule. This provides structure and routine. Set meal times, bedtimes, schoolwork, and even play time can help with daily tasks. Starting or restarting rest time can help children and caregivers recharge. Third, find out about community resources. Many towns and cities have food banks and free meals for children and families. Some communities are creating fun ways for children to engage socially without physical contact. Chalk messages on sidewalks and teddy bear sightings in windows provide a way to connect. While small, these gestures reduce feelings of isolation. Fourth, financial stress is real. Mortgage lenders, student loan holders, and banks are taking steps to reduce, stop, or postpone penalties. Look into opportunities that may provide financial relief. Last, remember you are not alone. If you need help, you can call the National Parent Helpline at 1-855-427-2736 or the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.

In many states, all citizens serve as mandatory reporters. If someone suspects child abuse or neglect, they are required by law to report these concerns to the police or state welfare agencies. By working together to look out for children, we may be able to help prevent cases of child abuse and neglect.

Box Section Ref ID

For More Information

The JAMA Pediatrics Patient Page is a public service of JAMA Pediatrics. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your child’s medical condition, JAMA Pediatrics suggests that you consult your child’s physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, email reprints@jamanetwork.com.
Back to top
Article Information

Published Online: April 24, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.1459

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Limit 200 characters
Limit 25 characters
Conflicts of Interest Disclosure

Identify all potential conflicts of interest that might be relevant to your comment.

Conflicts of interest comprise financial interests, activities, and relationships within the past 3 years including but not limited to employment, affiliation, grants or funding, consultancies, honoraria or payment, speaker's bureaus, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, royalties, donation of medical equipment, or patents planned, pending, or issued.

Err on the side of full disclosure.

If you have no conflicts of interest, check "No potential conflicts of interest" in the box below. The information will be posted with your response.

Not all submitted comments are published. Please see our commenting policy for details.

Limit 140 characters
Limit 3600 characters or approximately 600 words