By Crystal Harrell
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. With statewide orders to shelter in place in the coming weeks to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), at-risk families are feeling the effects of the pandemic. Schools are shut down until the following academic year and some parents/guardians either work from home or have filed for unemployment, which means that families are staying home full-time, leaving a window for potential explosiveness.
The Children’s Bureau, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, funds the National Child Abuse Prevention Month initiative each April on the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
According to the Children’s Bureau, about 4.3 million reports were made to child protective services concerning the safety and well-being of approximately 7.8 million children in 2018. Last year, an estimated 678,000 children were found to be victims of child abuse or neglect nationwide.
COVID-19 can put additional pressure on already vulnerable children, youth, and families. The child welfare field is continuing to support families in this time of increased stress. Various resources found on the Administration for Children & Families website outline guidance for social workers dealing with the virus and can help caregivers think about how an infectious disease outbreak might affect their family.
Olive Crest is a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing child abuse, treating and educating at-risk children, and preserving the family. The organization has a branch in Palm Desert to serve families in the Coachella Valley.
Olive Crest’s mission is to reunite every child with his or her family. The goal for those in the Foster to Adoption program is that they will be successfully matched with a forever family and adopted. Teens in these programs are emancipated as independent adults, or move to a Transitional Housing program whereas youth participating in the Family Preservation programs are not removed from their homes and remain with their biological families.
“‘Child Abuse Stops Here’ is not just a tag line for us. It is our vision and the goal we all work toward every day. We work with the children in our community through referrals that come from Riverside County Department of Public Social Services, Child Welfare Agency. Much of our preventive work is done through private donations and a faith-based volunteer program called Safe Families for Children,” said Angela Allen, the Olive Crest Development Manager of the Palm Desert branch.
Due to the CDC guidelines, Olive Crest’s foster parents have had limited access to the practical support that usually surrounds them. Services such as babysitting, playdates, and Sunday school are on hold in order to keep everyone safe and healthy during the quarantine. Despite the limitations, the Olive Crest teams are finding new means of checking in with families more frequently through the use of phone and video visits to ensure that everyone still feels supported even during the pandemic.
“Our entire organization is focused on stopping child abuse. That may seem an impossible goal, but we actually have a bold plan of action in place that when fully implemented will have a tremendous impact in reducing the number of children entering the child welfare system annually nationwide. Everyone can do something to help,” said Allen.
Visit olivecrest.org to learn more about the organization and to learn how you can help children in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.