VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — Child abuse cases in B.C. increased as COVID-19 restrictions started in mid-March, according to the B.C. youth representative.
Physical distancing and the closure of schools and community centres contributed to increased isolation, and Jennifer Charlesworth said everyone has a role to play in protecting vulnerable children and teens.
Since pandemic restrictions started in March, critical injury and death investigations are up 16 per cent, added Charlesworth.
“COVID-19 has revealed the frailties of the system regarding the social determinants for health — safe and secure housing, food security, social and community support,” she said.
“When we’re not seeing kids, then we miss these opportunities to figure out, ‘Hey, is everything going on OK?”
Education Minister Rob Fleming said last week, with fewer kids in school and at community centres, there will be tragic, unseen cases of abuse and neglect.
“We know that there is a lot of pain out there happening in many households in terms of parents who may have lost one or both jobs, people who are struggling to make ends meet,” he added.
Charlesworth said the province and community groups are working to increase connections lost to kids out of school and recreation programs, but others also need to be watching out for signs of child abuse.
“We need to be alarmed. We need to say, ‘What can I do? What do we need to do? What should I be asking for? What should we be encouraging?'”
That includes watching online interactions, Charlesworth said.
She added 50 per cent of calls for help come from schools, recreation programs, neighbours and friends — connections that are now limited. Another 32 per cent of calls come from police.
“So, if they’re not being called into situations, then they won’t see things,” Charlesworth said.
“Many of the children that we are seeing with critical injuries they have — they are known to us — they are more vulernable, or their circumstances are more precarious. But there is now a new kind of connection — there is a new issue that they’re having to deal with. So, it’s exacerbated their mental health concerns or it’s exacerbated their risks that they have for sexual exploitation or homelessness that kind of thing,” she added.