"We knew the Child Protective Investigative Team had a difficult job responding to horrific cases of child abuse, child sexual abuse, and children exposed to their parent's drug use," said Child Advocacy Center Director Sharon De Boer. "But, we had no idea what 2020 held in store for our team when the COVID-19 pandemic spread to Middle Tennessee."
The Child Advocacy Center and the Child Protective Investigative Team are first responders in child abuse cases. The agency has never closed or stopped providing services to children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Kids in crisis cannot wait until the end of the pandemic to get help," said Child Advocacy Center Family Services Coordinator Jennifer Gamble.
Across the nation, teachers and school personal report 52% of child abuse. When stay at home orders were issued and schools closed, child abuse reporting went down 30%.
"Unfortunately many children were not safer at home," continued Gamble. "As schools re-open we anticipate a huge spike in child abuse reporting."
The Department of Children's Services gives the Child Advocacy Center every child abuse referral that they receive, including referrals on children exposed to their parents drug use.
"Parents are using drugs as an unhealthy coping skill during the pandemic," stated DeBoer. "Drug exposed children cases have more than doubled this summer."
What the Child Advocacy Center and the Child Protective Investigative Team do is very specialized. In Rutherford and Cannon counties, the Child Advocacy Center has two forensic interviewers that interview child victims and four family advocates that assist families. All six of the employees have received extensive training to respond to child abuse, child sexual abuse, and drug endangered children cases. The team triage emergency child abuse cases every morning, prioritize cases, and respond to child victims who are in eminent danger.
COVID-19 has significantly impacted the state's economy. As a result, grants and contributions to nonprofit agencies are drastically down.
Here is where our community comes in.
If your family has not been impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic please consider making a contribution to a nonprofit agency this summer to help them to continue providing critically needed services to our community.
For more information on the Child Advocacy Center call (615) 867-9000 or visit the website at cacrutherford.org. You can also give back to the community through the United Way at https://www.yourlocaluw.org/give.