I hope this message finds you well and that you, your family, friends, and loved ones are healthy and safe.
As an organization which works with children, and continues to do so while we navigate this difficult time, we wanted to reach out to you as the members of our community to offer support, and some suggestions, for how we all can shine a light on the safety of the children and families in our communities.
As you know, when child victims of sexual, physical, emotional abuse and neglect can disclose, it is usually to an adult they trust. Often that trusted individual is a staff member or volunteers for organizations which serve children and families. Teachers, coaches, therapists, guidance counselors, mentors and other professionals are the backbone of taking those first reports from children seeking support, help and safety. With most school, sport, social and public gatherings now on hold, so are child victims' access to those resources. For those child victims, whose perpetrator may be in their home, this time is even more stressful, and they likely feel there is no safe way to report.
In Massachusetts, reports to law enforcement, the Department of Children and Families, and child advocacy centers since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic have dropped to record lows, seemingly due to their lack of access to trusted adults. We are asking you as an informed community member, in your capacity, to spread the word to those who are speaking with children regularly that the signs of abuse, neglect, or other concerns may be harder to detect. However, even though that direct access for children to seek help may be more challenging, organizations that help survivors, such as Children's Cove are still open and are here to support them.
Children deserve to be safe at home, not only from the virus, but also from abuse. We have worked in partnership with the Massachusetts Children's Alliance, and child advocacy centers across the state, to develop a guide for those in communication with children regularly to check in with them safely about their lives at home, and for signs to look out for which may be concerning. Please consider asking those in your circles of support and life to take time to check in with children using those guides and to learn about what signs to look for. These guides are accessible on our website on the homepage. They are titled: "Tips for Teachers" and "Signs a Child Needs Help"
If someone is concerned that a child is being harmed, they should notify the Department of Children and Families by calling their 24-hour Child-At-Risk Hotline at 800-792-5200. If someone has additional questions or a situation they would like to further discuss, they can also contact Children's Cove at 508-375-0410 and leave a message on the intake line. One of our intake staff will call you back within 24 business hours and will be able to assist you.