For Immediate ReleaseApril 23, 2020
Marin HHS sends warning on eve of Child Abuse Prevention Month
San Rafael, CA – Calls to Marin County’s child abuse and neglect hotlines has plunged since the start of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order, raising concerns of specialists with the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
April is national Child Abuse Prevention Month, and HHS Child Welfare Director Bree Marchman said family members and friends need to be especially wary of tempers and tension flaring within sheltered households.
“Everything we know from our experience is that child abuse goes up in times of crisis,” Marchman said. “Statistically we saw jumps during the last economic recession, and the severity of physical abuse seen at hospitals went up as financial situation got worse. All of the stressors that typically increase risk for abuse are here – financial pressures, food insecurity, and housing insecurity, which all can lead to an increase in mental health distress and alcohol and drug use. Not to mention, domestic violence is up, and one of the most common calls we get is about kids being witness to and affected by violence in their homes.”
Dr. Jei Africa, Director of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services for Marin HHS, said there are concerns not only about physical health but mental health as well.
“Because families are sheltering in place and are in close contact, it might be hard to find the safe space to call and reach out for a resource,” he said. “All of these affect our mental well-being.”
Marchman said most of the HHS community services have moved to online meetings or telephone sessions because of physical distancing guidelines in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“Our ability to detect child abuse has decreased,” she said. “Easily half of the voices that were raised to warn us about children in danger are now silent because they are not seeing and interacting with children as they did before. It is more important than ever that our mandated reporters are vigilant, are looking out for anything concerning, and are calling our hotline to report those concerns.”
Bree MarchmanChild Welfare Division DirectorHealth and Human Services
3250 Kerner Blvd.San Rafael, CA 94903(415) 473-7136Email: Bree MarchmanMarin HHS website