The past few months have been a challenge for children, families, and communities. At the start of the pandemic when the stay at home order was implemented, experts feared we would see a drop in child abuse and neglect reports, since teachers, the number one reporters, would no longer be seeing children face-to-face.
Home should be a safe space for all children, but in Maryland alone we see over 64,000 reported cases of child abuse or neglect, and that was before the added stress of a global pandemic. “Children are also especially vulnerable to abuse during the pandemic,” says child psychologist Yo Jackson, PhD, associate director of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network at Penn State. “Research shows that increased stress levels among parents is often a major predictor of physical abuse and neglect of children, she says.” Parents are stressed about finances and the safety of their family and their children are stressed from the changes happening around them. Many families do not have access to technology and are totally cut off. Normal support systems that families depend on including childcare, schools and even extended family are not an option right now. “Even parents who have great child management skills and great bonds with their kids are going to be tested,” says Jackson. “There’s a perfect storm happening in millions of homes for kids to be at greater risk for these negative interactions.”
It is important to take care of yourself so you can be the best parent for your child. If you are stressed, you are more likely to respond harshly or aggressively towards your child. Take a break from parenting duties when you can and relax. Check out our blog post about managing stress.
“The only way for you to reduce the risk of violence against children is to take care of yourself. There are no super parents; only parents who are more tuned in and connected to themselves.”– Yo Jackson, PhD, American Psychology Association
Thanks to technology and creativity, The Family Tree staff have done incredible work reaching families where they are. We immediately transitioned our programs to virtual platforms, and we are proud to highlight the impact of our work.
Virtual Family Education
Parenting education classes are up and running reaching people from all over the state. Here is what our parents say about their virtual parenting classes:
- “I liked the teaching style by the facilitator, he actually listened and broke the information down to us. I liked the elaboration of information with examples that we could relate to. It was very comprehensive and interesting and not only cor my child and about my child but about myself as well. I really enjoyed the four weeks of parenting class; it went by very fast. On a scale of 1 to 10 a 9.5.”
- “I really liked the way my facilitator taught us, and he was involved with us. He always asked if we needed help understanding things in class and always asked us if we had any questions. When we they always gave good, positive answers. He made me really comfortable to share.”
- “What I really liked about the class was how she explained to me it was okay to make time for me without my kids.”
Next up, our Family Education Department is adding live webinars. Join us for a Stress Management workshop on October 7th. This workshop offers a range of strategies to help participants better deal with stress. Participants will learn skills such as problem-solving, prioritizing tasks and time management. The workshop will focus on understanding stress and some of the causes, signs and symptoms of stress and positive methods of dealing with stress.
Virtual Home Visiting
Our Homevisiting staff have made a lot of changes in the way they did their work. Transitioning from building in person one on one relationships with new parents to only seeing them and their children virtually has been hard on our staff and the clients. They have been able to continue their visits (virtually) once a week and added in fun, group activities like virtual story time! Our staff often bring some essentials with them on each visit like diapers and formula and our families have been missing those helpful supplies. Our staff have managed creative ways to get these items to their clients!
“I was excited to see my home visitor but was struggling to make ends meet and as a result I did not have money to buy pampers for my child.” Through our partnership with ShareBaby we were able to provide Ms. Jones with a few packs of pampers and even some formula for her baby.
Community Outreach and Education
The Family Tree has hosted 20 virtual trainings. They include Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) trainings, that teach professionals about childhood trauma and how it changes a person’s brain chemistry affecting them into adulthood. The Family Tree, in partnership with Maryland Essentials for Childhood, is leading this vital initiative in Maryland through the renowned training program known as ACE Interface. We have also added new trainings to our rotation including the effects of COVID-19 on child abuse and neglect and domestic violence. This information about how to see signs of abuse is more important now than ever before. With teachers, educators, and doctors not physically able to see children, they need to know other strategies. Again, thanks to technology, these trainings have been successful in and reaching professionals all throughout Maryland (and beyond!)
After trainings, some professionals responded:
- “This training should be mandatory [for early childhood communities.] Very exciting and thought-provoking, would love an all-day training.”
- “This training gave relevant information to the hardship’s families in all walks of life are facing and how to share this information with those most affected.”
Baltimore City Child Care Resource Center
Our Baltimore City Child Care Resource Center (BCCCRC), is also powering through these difficult times to adjusting to the “new normal.” BCCCRC provides training, technical support and mental health support to family day care providers and childcare centers in Baltimore City. Like many other areas, COVID-19 has had a serious impact on the childcare community. This program has been a shining light for many providers who needed guidance to get through this crisis. Some childcare providers had these wonderful things to say about this vital program:
- “Thank you for your support of childcare community, and the calm that fell over me listening to you. Once again you have proven yourself to be an invaluable source of information and more. I share the information I learn with parents so they can better understand their children.”
- “Wow! All this information is so enlightening. I already added the pictures of the different emotions by the mirror and of course a child (along with some other friends) have found themselves talking in the mirror while pointing at different emotions. It not only helps one child but the rest of the class. So, thank you for that!”
With everything going on in our world today, our work continues. We are reaching families where they are and providing support, resources and guidance to families in crisis. Our Parenting HelpLine (1-800-243-7337) and our online chat are available 24/7 for support. Follow along on our social media and blog for vital resources and information about parenting and families. We are here to help and together, we can all make it through this difficult time.
If you need support, please call our Parenting HelpLine: 1-800-243-7337