The COVID-19 crisis brings many challenges for youth, including increased risk of abuse.
While at home, youth are no longer visible in the community and many have lost access to trusted friends and adults. This isolation reduces opportunities for adults to recognize signs of abuse and exploitation and leaves children without opportunities to report abuse. The stress of quarantine and isolation can also heighten the risk of violence in the home.
Make a Virtual Connection
While we are not seeing children and youth in person, professionals can continue to help children access safety and resources through virtual connections. Whether zooming, Face Timing or on the phone, we can find opportunities to check in and focus on safety.
Talk About It
Try some universal conversation starters with youth (the elephant in the room!): “I’m checking in with all the kids I’m talking with about how they are dealing with the quarantine."
Try These Conversation Starters
- What’s it like for you being at home right now?
- How is your family handling the quarantine?
- Are you worried about your own or someone else’s safety?
- Who else are you keeping in contact with outside of your home?
- Who do you usually go to for support? Are they available during this hard time?
- If you needed more help or just needed to talk, what would you do? Who would you call?
- If no one is identified, brainstorm options and/or offer yourself or colleague as a resource - backed up with contact info.
Know the Signs
Notice changes in the child’s usual demeanor beyond the expected stress of the pandemic.
- Physical signs: bruises, cuts, burn marks, unexplained injury
- Emotional signs: withdrawn, less communicative, fearful, anxious
- Behavioral signs: running away, increased opposition or aggression, atypical or new sexual knowledge
Know What to Do
- Your organization's contact information
- Text Crisis Line: Text “HOME” to 741741
- Boston Emergency Services Team (BEST): Call 1-800-981-HELP (4357) for a mental health crisis
- DCF Child Protection Hotline: 1-800-792-5200
Be Ready to Safety Plan and Report, if needed
Safety planning and reporting are necessary AND challenging if the abuse is within the home under our current circumstances.
Safety First. Create a brief safety plan until DCF can respond.
- Are they physically safe or is 911 needed? If calling 911, stay online with the child until emergency responders arrive.
- If less urgent, is there a safe adult to tell in the home? An adult to call or who you can call for them?
- Reassure – you care about them. It’s your job to get them help and you’re glad they told you!