What happened to children during the recent global pandemic? The California Department of Public Health, Injury and Prevention Branch (CDPH/IVPB) and the California Department of Social Services, Office of Child Abuse Prevention (CDSS/OCAP)’s, Essentials for Childhood (EfC) Initiative recently addressed this issue in a webinar on “Child Maltreatment-Related Injuries During the COVID-19 Pandemic in California”. The goal of this webinar was to assess changes in the frequency, severity, and demographics of non-fatal Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) injuries during the pandemic.
Presenters Orion Stewart, Beth Jarosz, and Nathan Porter discussed the implications from Emergency Department (ED) and Hospitalization Data retrieved from the Department of Health Care Access and Information. An important finding was the emotional strain caregivers have been under, with at least 60% having felt angry with their children in 2020 and 2021, and 45% having shouted, yelled, or screamed at their children in 2021. At the same time, at least 70% reported having feelings of closeness with their children in both 2020 and 2021. These emotions may have been connected to financial distress, as 43% of parents reported that they were negatively impacted by a change in their financial situation.
Despite high emotions for parents, the presenters revealed that child abuse and neglect (CAN) reports declined for both claims and substantiations. Also, CAN related emergency department visits declined as well for all ethnic groups from 2019-2020. Other important statistics that the presenters shared was that females made up a larger share of ED visits due to CAN events, and that infants are at the highest risk of hospitalization.
The presenters remarked that “further work needs to be done to clarify whether this was due to an actual decrease in CAN or other factors associated with the pandemic,” as social isolation may have played a role in the reporting of CAN related events.