Childhelp, a national anonymous hotline to report child abuse, has reported a 23 percent increase in calls and a 263 percent increase in texts for March 2020 compared to March 2019. Children and teens have been calling and texting hotlines like this to reach out for help. It’s no surprise, as it is well documented that domestic violence rises dramatically during times of economic crisis, whether it’s the Great Depression of the 1930s or the recession of 2008. We don’t have all the data for the Covid-19 crisis, but this March data is grim.
As inadequate and underfunded as they often are, schools still offer some stability in the lives of children who have very little. Now that they are shut down, the school staff that is trained to see the signs of abuse and violence, and to try to intervene, is not there for vulnerable children.
The employers’ response to the pandemic has been to cut jobs and hours across the board, leaving people everywhere fearing the worst, struggling to pay for food, rent, utilities, bills and more. On top of this, they are confronted with the added stress of watching children at home, often in cramped spaces, and sometimes also caring for family members who are ill. All of these factors combined can spell a disaster of abuse, violence and neglect for many people, but particularly children in working class and poor families. With shelter-in-place ordinances and social distancing measures, how can social workers effectively visit homes to check up on families? Even at its best, living in this capitalist system is literally an abusive relationship where workers and their families’ livelihoods can be sacrificed without any regard to the consequences. Now at this moment of crisis, it can mean hell for the most vulnerable in society, the children. It is past time for all of us to break out of this abusive relationship!
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