‘Fear for the Children for Whom Home is Not Safe’

Allison Jackson, MD, FAAP, MPH

May 1, 2020

As a child abuse pediatrician, my immediate reaction to the public health response to COVID-19 was fear for the children for whom home is not safe. 

While so much time and focus has appropriately been on the devastating impact COVID is having across the nation — flattening the curve, preparing for surges, PPE, and the like —I worry about two things in particular:

  1. How COVID might impact my own family, particularly in light of the disparate outcomes for African-Americans, and 
  2. What is happening to the children who are secluded at home? 

Focusing on the children in our community, we have seen far too many seriously injured children from physical abuse in this short time-frame—and not enough children for sexual abuse, even though it certainly is happening. 

We know the kids who need our care are out there.

Children at home with adults so stressed that they lash out verbally and physically and harm them; children who are stuck with the individual who is sexually abusing them; children who are being exploited sexually in-person or over the Internet, because it is so profitable to do so; and children witnessing domestic violence.

Before the COVID pandemic, 1 in 8 children would have a substantiated case of child maltreatment and 1 in 10 children would experience sexual abuse by the age of 18.

With closed schools and telehealth visits, children are shielded from the mandated reporters who can help. So we sound the alarm, advocate for the funds to support our response, and wait for the aftermath.

Send in your COVID-19 pandemic story, and we may share it here and on our social media channels. https://bit.ly/2XVvJIu

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

About the Author

Allison Jackson, MD, FAAP, MPH

Allison Jackson, MD, FAAP, MPH, is a child abuse pediatrician at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. where she holds the inaugural Washington Children’s Foundation Professorship of Child and Adolescent Protection. She is also a member of the AAP’s Council on Child Abuse and Neglect and the Ray Helfer Society.