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Isolation raises questions of child abuse

One of the unlikely results of families being urged to isolate and practice social distancing could be an increase in cases of child abuse.

This is something Butterfly Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center Director Jana Zuelzke fears, and she is trying to do her best to prevent such scenarios from taking place.

Zuelzke stated that teachers are the ones that most often report possible abuse when their students show certain signs.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one out of five child maltreatment reports come from educators.

However, that avenue of protection and reporting is now absent with schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With the schools closed, children in an abusive environment are now forced to be isolated in that setting without much way of relief.

“Being even more vigilant is important right now, even with the social distancing that’s going on,” Zuelzke said. “Have your eyes and ears open.”

Zuelzke advised using phones and other available technology to keep in touch with neighbors, friends and family.

For those families that do not know what to do with the extra time they have to spend with each other, Zuelzke recommended taking the time to research resources and different activities that can be done as a family.

“Even kids in otherwise functional families could face threat, as parents who are not used to providing round-the-clock care and are stressed by the uncertainty of the economy are pushed to the edge,” Zuelzke said.

She stressed the importance to have a good daily balance of learning, fun time and relaxation in order to prevent arguments or confrontations that may escalate in the close confines of a home.

Zuelzke also understands that children may spend more time on electronic devices then they normally would while waiting out the pandemic.

“This could lead to an increase in online solicitation and cyberbullying,” Zuelzke said. “To help prevent this, make sure kids are using technology in an open space and not in their room with the door shut.”

Butterfly Bridge has at least one staff member physically in the office if anybody has questions or concerns regarding a situation.

To report possible child abuse or neglect, contact a local law enforcement agency or the Chilton County Department of Human Resources at 205-280-2000and ask to speak with a child abuse/neglect intake worker.

Zuelzke suggests calling the Butterfly Bridge office first before stopping by. The phone number for the Chilton County office is 205-755-4205.

Parents in need of support can call the national parent hotline at 1-855-427-2736 or the national child abuse hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.