Thu | Jan 28, 2021

Children’s advocate: COVID-19 could worsen child neglect, abuse

Published:Tuesday | April 7, 2020 | 12:29 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer


Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison says that unless normality is restored to the education sector and the local economy in short order, COVID-19 could cause an increase in the neglect and abuse of children as a result of frustration.

With COVID-19 emerging as the deadliest global pandemic in a century, Prime Minister Andrew Holness ordered the closure of infant, primary and secondary schools, as well as teachers’ colleges, effective March 13. The closure was initially for 14 days but was subsequently extended to cover the Easter holidays.

“This is not normal for them (the children), so we have to deal with sustained ways of health and wellness, to include managing the frustration in the home, because if we have an economic downturn, we may have very frustrated parents who are very concerned,” said Gordon Harrison.

Parents who have been sacked by their employers because of the COVID-19 financial fallout must now face the double role as home-style teachers to their children via Internet with their teachers and other resource personnel.

According to Gordon Harrison, more attention needs to be placed on activities in which children can engage to dispel the stress associated with their lives been disrupted, having being taken out of the routine of school. The shuttering of parks, beaches, and entertainment venues has also closed a valve for leisure and relief.

“We could have an uptick in childcare and neglect issues coming to the fore, so we need to be looking at family support,” Gordon Harrison, a former prosecutor, said in an interview with The Gleaner.

Gordon Harrison further noted that unstable conditions such as the pandemic usually contribute to a spike in the vulnerability that affects children, especially where structures that are normally in place are no longer there.

“[Parents could become] very stressed, which sometimes will result in an increase in the type of punishment that you will see in the home, and, of course, we don’t want any of that,” noted Gordon Harrison.

Behavioural scientists from across the globe have been urging parents to seek to create scenarios that mirror normal life as much as possible to prevent boredom.