CHILD ABUSE DURING PANDEMIC: Some fear neglect worsened, local non-profit seeks to educate parents

Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 4:52 PM CDT
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PINEVILLE, La. (KALB) - There are growing fears that the pandemic may have led to an increase in child abuse cases.

The Family Justice Center in Pineville believes the isolation of the pandemic may have left kids in unsafe environments.

“Child abuse is something that affects everyone,” Mollie Wise, a mental health counselor at the Family Justice Center, said. “It doesn’t just affect one social-economic status, culture or race.”

Wise said many child abuse cases do not get reported.

In 2019, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services received 52,862 reports of child abuse or neglect to its statewide, toll-free, 24/7 hotline, 1-855-4LA-KIDS. More than 4,000 of those calls to the hotline were from Central Louisiana.

“A lot of times you will see a child possibly have very unstable emotional reactions,” Wise said. “They might get really angry. They might get really sad. They’re never stable.”

Wise also said a child’s performance in school could be an indicator of abuse.

“They could be coming to school dirty a lot. Maybe they don’t have the appropriate clothing for the weather,” she said. “Another warning sign is if they become fearful to go home, refuse to go home, runaway a lot and, even in some younger and even older children, suicide attempts.”

She said it’s vital for parents and the community to take action to stop child abuse.

“A lot of times parents do not really mean to abuse their kids, a lot of times it’s out of stress, lack of parenting skills,” she said.

A stressor for families currently is the coronavirus pandemic and its health and economic implications.

“With the school being some virtual, others have been closed down. There aren’t eyes on these kids anywhere else. So there are concerns that abuse could be happening and going unreported.”

Currently, the center offers free parenting classes to families in Cenla. They hope that through education, parents can learn skills to create healthier families.

“We teach skills to to have correct forms of punishment, how to communicate with their kids, how to attend to their kids, emotionally and physically.”

The class begins May 4 and is every Tuesday for eight weeks from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm at the center.

The statewide hotline to report abuse is 1-855-4LA-KIDS.

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