DENVER — With schools and businesses closed, more children and their parents are home together right now. But home is not a safe place for every family.
For domestic violence victims, or families experiencing trauma from child abuse or neglect, this is a scary time.
“The whole coronavirus crisis has just added another layer of crisis for domestic violence victims,” explained Margaret Abrams, the Executive Director of the Rose Andom Center, which connects domestic violence victims to local resources and services.
“For many victims of intimate partner violence, being at home is not the safest option for them. So to suddenly be faced with a situation where they may have to be at home with the person that is abusing them could put them at a lot of risk.”
Abrams said services are still available through Rose Andom Center, and she encourages victims to reach out for help. But, she acknowledges it’s a tough situation made more difficult right now with social distancing requirements in place.
“It’s created so much more isolation when that is already such a gripping dynamic for so many domestic victims. Now they are further isolated from resources they otherwise might be able to reach out to,” she said.
Another concern for advocacy groups are the children in abusive or troubled home environments.
The Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline system reports a significant drop in the number of calls since schools have closed in recent days.
“What we're afraid of is, the drop in calls to hotline is not because there’s reduction in abuse and neglect, it’s because the people who generally see [these kids], don’t see them today,” said Ned Breslin, CEO of the Tennyson Center for Children in Denver, which works with children and families experiencing trauma from abuse, neglect and maltreatment.
“Because children, unfortunately, are not in school anymore, not going to doctors or anything, there is every likelihood that families that are under stress could be engaging in maltreatment or abuse and nobody will be seeing it,” said Breslin.
Tennyson Center says the child welfare sector relies heavily on grandparents to help care for a lot of these children. That's another concern during this pandemic.
"So we have a lot of children in our network who are actually living with grandparents right now, and that is a very fragile situation right now," Breslin said. "And were doing a lot of things to support those grandparents."
Tennyson Center staff made adjustments to continue their work.
Breslin said that includes hooking up computers and wifi hotspots with families, so they can continue access to social workers and therapists, through tele-health, during social distancing requirements.
In addition to working with families living together, the Tennyson Center also serves as a home for more than 30 children. He said the campus is holding school now seven days a week, in addition to ongoing therapy and support.
Still, it’s difficult for everyone to find a new normal.
“We make incredible progress for our kids here at Tennyson, and I’ve seen a lot of our kids really struggle the last few weeks, and take a few steps back, and that’s what keeps me up at night,” said Claire Morrow, a licensed clinical social worker at Tennyson Center.
Morrow said the staff is getting creative with ways to keep the kids consistent in their treatment, but also entertained. Those efforts include using the same therapist already assigned to specific children, even if they have to dial in remotely. That also includes finding opportunities for fun, including an impromptu dance party Morrow said happened on campus this week.
“Those are moments that bring me joy right now, and give me a lot of hope. We’re getting through this, were still thriving,” she said.
“We still can laugh and have fun and dance.”
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