FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - Doctors at Cook Children's Hospital say they believe the stresses from the coronavirus pandemic are linked to six cases of severe child abuse seen at the hospital just this week.
Cook Children's says it typically sees that many such cases over the course of a month.
All of the children admitted this week were under 4 years old.
"We knew an increase in abuse was going to occur, but this happened faster than we ever imagined," said Christi Thornhill, director of the Trauma Program, the CARE team and Fostering Health at Cook Children's. "I mean this happened in a week and these are really bad abuse cases."
Jamye Coffman, M.D., medical director of the Cook Children's Center for Prevention and Child Abuse and Neglect and the CARE team, believes these unprecedented times have simply become too much for some parents.
"People have so much increased stress right now," Dr. Coffman said. "They've got financial stress. Some people lost their job or worried about keeping their current job. They lost their income. You've got stress from being overcrowded. Everyone's cooped up together. They feel like they can't get away from each other. These stressors can lead to abuse."
Dr. Coffman said another factor is that people can't get away from COVID-19 news as it is on TV and social media constantly.
It's more difficult to take children to a grandparent or neighbor's house right now and kids aren't going to school to give their parents some away time.
In a news release Friday, Cook Children's talked about what families can do now:
"Most of us know family members or neighbors we can reach out to when we know that maybe this is high stress situation," Dr. Coffman said. "I think just maintaining some human connection is extremely important so people don't feel isolated or people don't feel as alone, which may reduce some of the anxiety and frustration. It may even be a phone call to somebody to say, 'I'm having a hard time' or even 'my kids are driving me nuts.'"
Dr. Coffman stressed it's normal to feel more frustrated because of the unknown and uncertain times, but when you feel frustrated, it's Ok to ask for help or reach out and ask for advice.
Childhelp.org offers a resource for both parents and children alike during this time. For this article, we called this organization. We were told they are currently available to help and welcome any phone calls. The National Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453.
Thornhill encourages people to get involved during this difficult time. The number one reporter of child abuse continues to be teachers, but kids aren't seeing them right now.
"We worry about who will see abuse and report it right now," Thornhill said. "That's where we need neighbors and other family members to pay attention. If you hear the child next door screaming, call for help. All of us need to be involved. As much as most of us don't want to, we all must make it our business."
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, please contact the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services toll free at 1-800-252-5400, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You may also file a report using the secure TDFPS website. Reports made through this website take up to 24 hours to process.
The Texas Abuse Hotline is 1-800-252-5400.
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