Virtual learning is now the norm for millions of children. Many schools that resumed in-person learning at the end of 2020 have returned to remote learning— and will not resume in-person.
Children across the world are again confined to their homes.
For a child stuck living and learning in a dangerous home—with an abusive parent or caretaker — quarantine restrictions have been a nightmare. To make matters worse, these restrictions have exposed gaping holes in abuse prevention policies and procedures that are putting vulnerable children at further risk.
Over the last ten months, visits to emergency rooms with severe child abuse-related injuries have skyrocketed across the country. Yet, reports of child abuse have plummeted since schools closed in the spring, with some states reporting a 50% decrease in calls to the child abuse hotlines.
Decreased reports of child abuse shouldn’t correspond with increased abuse-related injuries. But, when you also consider that 76% of child abuse perpetrators are the parent of their victim(s) – a number that is sure to have risen since the onset of COVID-19 – the numbers make more sense.
Children need our help now — more than ever. We can help end the suffering of neglected and abused children living and learning in a dangerous home. They are slipping through the cracks and it is an adult’s responsibility to protect them from abuse.
To help shield children from further abuse, the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children developed an online workshop in late March to help teachers, school nurses, coaches, counselors, and administrators — those who see children most often — to recognize abuse and neglect through online interactions with students, and how to get a child the help they may need. It’s called Protecting Children in Virtual Learning Environments; to date, the Foundation has trained more than 2,200 educators and youth-serving professionals.
Pre-COVID, these frontline professionals were the leading reporters of suspected abuse, calling for help when they notice signs of physical abuse or signs of hunger or mistreatment at home. But now, teachers can only get their eyes on their students in a virtual classroom.
Through this State of Delaware accredited workshop, the Foundation’s team of experts in law, law enforcement, and education discuss how clear child protection policies and procedures establish appropriate boundaries between adults and children in virtual learning environments. Participants walk through how to make all interactions with children observable and able to be interrupted at any time, best practices on communicating with children online (including emails, text messages, social media apps, and online games) — to help prevent grooming within an organization. Participants also learn the signs and manifestations of child abuse, and how best to respond even within virtual learning environments.
Every adult must take steps to ensure the safety of our nation’s children. Children must not continue to suffer in silence. The Beau Biden Foundation asks every school and youth-serving organization to join us in protecting children and confronting abuse.