It is undeniable that COVID-19 has brought on a lot of struggles to organizations small and large all around the globe, but one thing that isn’t discussed in the media quite as much is the hardships America’s nonprofit, child welfare and social safety net systems are facing as well.
As stay-at-home orders continue to stay in place for people’s health and safety, home may not be the safest place for everybody. Because families are now staying inside of their homes more than normal this has now become a critical time for at-risk children and families who already are system-involved.
RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, has reported that, “By the end of March 2020, with much of the country under lockdown, there was a 22% increase in monthly calls from people younger than the age of 18, and half of all incoming contacts were from minors.”
During this time of social distancing, the need for mental health and child welfare services are beginning to increase. According to the United Nations, children all around the world are facing risks such as a lack of education, food, safety, and healthcare. Many children have been facing these struggles their whole lives, but with the current lack of outside resources or a slow recovery process after the pandemic, the well-being of the most vulnerable members of society is now more of a concern than ever.
Earlier this year, here in Southern California, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement, “One of the things we’re going to learn after this pandemic is over is that by having people sheltered at home, we have potentially put children and elderly people closer to their abusers.”
Child abuse and neglect reports have decreased by nearly two-thirds since schools have closed which was initially reported by a number of news outlets at the beginning of the stay-at-home orders during the early months of the pandemic in 2020. However, this doesn’t mean that less abuse is happening but rather that it might be unsafe for victims to reach out for help or that calls to abuse hotlines by mandatory reporters, like school teachers, is not happening.
California Governor, Gavin Newsom, announced the release of $42 million in early 2020 to protect California children and youth who are at “heightened risk for abuse and mistreatment due to COVID-19,” and while a portion of this sum goes to nonprofits and social safety organizations like Crittenton, it is still not nearly enough to provide all the support needed during the state’s recovery process.
And as the federal government is slow to respond to the budgetary needs of this unprecedented public health crisis it will take all of us to continue to reach out to our elected officials to prioritize the funding needs of national mental health and child welfare programming.
Between our mental health, child advocacy, residential, family, and community-based programs, Crittenton serves up to 2,000 clients per year. Nonprofit agencies, such as Crittenton, work non-stop to help heal the traumas within the communities we serve. Unfortunately, it is challenging for the social safety net to help communities in need without proper funding or legislative support especially those of us responding to the direct trauma aftermath of COVID-19.
“Everybody at some point in time has experienced anxiety or a sense of insecurity. However, because of the pandemic more of the general public is starting to realize how important the social services networks are to our society,” said Martha Jasso, Crittenton’s Communications Director, “So now more than ever, those of us in social work, in child welfare, in the mental health community, we do see ourselves as an important part of the national recovery process that should be supported and funded appropriately.”
As always we continue to thank our supporters for prioritizing the health and welfare of system-involved children and youth. For those of you who can give of your time and resources, we continue to ask for your support and advocacy in 2021 as well. Some possible forms of support can be by becoming a foster care parent, providing direct donations, consider a career with our agency, or, for those who are students, we urge you to consider the nonprofit community during the 2021 spring semester to complete your virtual intern experience.
None of us are in this alone, and, with your help, we can all be a part of the nation’s recovery process.
Crittenton Services for Children and Families of Southern California (CSCF) is a non-profit social services agency whose mission is to heal the wounds of abuse and neglect; strengthen families; and help troubled adolescents reach their full potential. Established and incorporated in 1966 Crittenton has a highly trained workforce operating 24 hours a day / 7 days a week providing comprehensive mental health services, shelter care, and other support services to the clients in our care. We provide a full array continuum of care programming that includes short-term residential, family preservation, wraparound family services, outpatient mental health, school-linked mental health, transitional age youth programming, and foster care services with a service planning area throughout Southern California that covers Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties.