May 2020
The Journal Sentinel highlighted the worrying decreases in child abuse reports during social distancing and school closures . Read the article here.

In times of crisis and severe economic pressures, child abuse has historically increased. We're having some indications this is happening now too--for the first time 50% of hotline calls to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) are coming from children and youth reporting they have been sexually abused. Isolation can add to the danger faced by kids in violent homes. As always, Kids Matter stands ready to intervene and support children at risk of harm.

If you know a family under stress or a parent on a journey of sobriety, this is a great time to pick up the phone and offer support. Let's make sure that "every child has someone in their corner."

With college semesters wrapping up, Kids Matter says thank you to our MSW intern Ireland Andrews for all that she's done for our kids and volunteers. Ireland's experience and positive energy has made such a difference!

Susan Conwell, JD
Executive Director
Foster Care Awareness Month
From foster care to foster and adoptive parent, CASA volunteer Magdalia Proft-Maikowski keeps kids at the center of all we do. Click below to watch her important message!
3 Ways To Wrap Up Foster Care Awareness Month

  1. Build awareness all year long through social media and conversations with friends and family. Follow the Wisconsin Youth Advisory Council (YAC) on Facebook, read a survey from FosterClub on how young people are impacted by COVID-19, and learn why child abuse reports are dropping in Milwaukee--and why it's a problem.
  2. Join the Kids Matter Book Club to learn how foster care is changing. This month we're reading Somebody Else's Children: The Courts, The Kids, and The Struggle to Save America's Troubled Families by Jill Wolfson and John Hubner. The book highlights problems with existing child protection laws and practices. Some of the problems will be addressed by the new Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018. Wisconsin will be implementing this new federal law in 2022. Full text and summaries of the law are available on the Child Welfare Information Gateway, the Children’s Defense Fund and the National Council of State Legislatures. Email to join!
  3. Sign up to become a CASA volunteer! Our next virtual training begins July 8th. For more details, visit our website.
Children's Mental Health
May is also Mental Health Month. In Milwaukee County, emergency services have observed an 80% increase in calls to respond to suicide attempts for all ages. Check out our March 2019 newsletter for a list of local and national suicide prevention resources (scroll to the bottom) .

Even if children and youth understand society’s response to COVID-19, the current uncertainty and disruption of "normal" is increasing mental health issues. Anxiety, depression, and eating disorders/body image issues are on the rise among everyone, and especially young people. Children and teens are coping with many changes including staying home from school, being apart from friends, and missing activities that they enjoy--and it is unclear when these changes will resolve. This uncertainty is especially stressful for youth who already lack stability in their everyday lives.
Schools typically serve as a way for children to have access to mental health. With school closures and teachers and staff missing face-to-face contact with children, children who need mental health services are suffering. It is important that caring adults—caregivers, parents, CASA volunteers, mentors—are available to help.

Infant Mental Health
What is infant mental health? While it was long believed that infants were resilient to negative stressors, we now know that the time from in utero to 3 years of age is very important for development. Infant mental health is a young child’s social, emotional and cognitive capacity as well as the security of attachment to their primary caregiver. A young child whose parent struggles with substance abuse is more likely to have poor mental health. Infants and toddlers can show signs of toxic stress. Find out more from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University .

5 Tips For Improving Infant Mental Health
If a child you care about has experienced neglect or toxic stress, it's never too late to act.

  1. Establish a responsive and secure relationship with the child. Maximize love and affection for the child. All relationships are important. Close relationships with other nurturing and reliably available adults do not interfere with the strength of a young child’s relationship with their primary caregiver.
  2. If possible, know the child's history. Remember their early life experiences and pay attention as the child grows.
  3. Limit excessive stimulation such as noise and bright lights. If the child experienced withdrawal at birth from in utero drug or alcohol use, medication or therapy may be necessary.
  4. Minimize conflict with family members as much as possible and focus on what's best for the child. Even young children can sense conflict.
  5. Continue to learn, ask questions and talk to others. Our understanding of infant and children's mental health is improving. Reach out to the child's pediatrician, teachers and broader support system with concerns and ideas.

Want to know more? The Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health is planning a conference for October 19-21, 2020 at Elkhart Lake. Click here for more information.
How To Ease the Stressors of Living in a Multigenerational Household During the Pandemic
“It’s never too late to make living together more harmonious or to improve on a current strategy.” Read more from PBS by clicking below.
Living in a multigenerational household during COVID-19...

Revisit the original plan. Reassess unused space. Recall successful coping strategies from past challenges. As we continue to shelter in place, those "Three Rs" may ease daily life, especially for extended families sharing small homes or...

Read more