‘Coronavirus crisis has put kids at risk’

From the Cincinnati Enquirer, March 27, 2020

At 9 years old, Monique Conyers’ parent beat her with a belt. 

Later, at school, Conyers gathered the courage to indicate to a teacher there was trouble at home. Then the teacher discovered wounds on her pupil’s back. The school filed a formal report with child protective services.

From then on, social workers monitored the family, leading to Conyers’ eventual removal from her home. Conyers said her school’s action was a crucial first step to escaping violence.

Now 25, Conyers, who started Monique & Co. to provide support to children facing abuse, is certain school closures triggered by the new coronavirus pandemic will make it less likely authorities learn about cases like hers.

“There’s going to be so many cases (of child abuse or neglect) not being reported,” Conyers said, “because now kids don’t have anywhere to run to.”

This issue isn’t new. Child abuse reports decrease in the summer and during winter breaks, when children are apart from educators, according to figures from local agencies. 

But the coronavirus pandemic will likely aggravate the problem, and not just because cases will be underreported with children out of school, say local advocates. The mental and economic strain on parents and guardians could manifest in abuse directed at children.

And social isolation, undertaken to combat the virus, may have the unintended consequence of concealing warning signs from the outside world.

“Is there a concern that abuse and neglect will increase? Absolutely,” said Tracy Cook, the executive director of ProKids, a nonprofit whose staff and volunteers support children suffering abuse. “This coronavirus crisis has put kids at risk.”

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