La PORTE — April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, set aside to inform the public about the need to report suspected abuse and neglect. And this April, at-risk children may be more risk than ever.

Millions of people are staying home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. However, for some, staying home causes an increased risk of danger.

Children are facing a heightened risk of abuse and neglect, but many of these cases may go unreported while schools are closed, according to Karen Biernacki, CEO of Family Advocates in La Porte County.

Parents are losing their jobs and struggling to provide for their families. Adults are also facing a greater risk of domestic violence, which is traumatic for victims and their children, who are at home witnessing it.

Many mental health services and child advocacy services have resorted to video-chatting, phone calls or messaging instead of meeting in person.

“Our Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers are not able to check in with these kids face-to-face and we are worried that the higher stress in homes can lead to more abuse,” Biernacki said.

“Volunteers and staff are getting creative by connecting virtually with children and caregivers, ensuring they have information about food pickup sites, and dropping off craft bags at their doors to keep connected.”

The need may be greater than ever, according to April Greetham, La Porte County CASA director.

“I am fearful that there will be an increase in the need for Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers as children return to school, and social distancing and isolation is ended,” she said.

“These children will need a strong voice and the La Porte County CASA Program will need to increase the number of volunteer advocates ready to step up and be their voice.”

At this time of high isolation for children and parents, it is more important to connect with neighbors and be aware of situations where children may be in danger, Greetham said.

If you are questioning the safety of a child or feel that a family is in need of intervention, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 800-800-5556.

“That call may save a child’s life and provide a struggling family with the services to support them through this crisis,” Greetham said.

If you would like to become an advocate for an abused and neglected child, you can be a CASA volunteer. For more information, go to www.lpfamily or email Rechelle at rmccray@lpfamily

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