Coronavirus stress may be leading to spike in child abuse: Doctors

Doctors at Fort Worth’s Cook Children’s Medical Center warn that stress resulting from worries over the novel coronavirus pandemic may lead to an increase in child abuse.

The national recognized pediatric hospital has seen six child abuse cases this week — one fatal — when it normally sees about eight a month, Dr. Jayme Coffman, medical director of the CARE team, told NBC DFW.

“There’s no way for us to directly link that, but that’s the concern — are these families under more stress related to financial issues, whether it’s lost jobs or concerns for their jobs?” she said. “We also saw similar types of things happen during the recession where, in our trauma department, the most common cause of trauma death in children was motor vehicle collisions. During the recession, that changed to abusive head trauma, and I don’t want to see that again.”

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Shellie McMillon, chief program officer at the Alliance For Children, said that with children home from school during the outbreak, caretakers should not be afraid to ask for help.

“If you’re feeling really stressed and really feeling anger towards your kids — it’s OK, as long as they’re in a safe place, right? Kind of a safe spot in the house walk away and calm down,” she said. “It’s OK to leave your child if they’re crying or something, if you feel like you’re at wit’s end.”

Coffman also urged friends and family to reach out.

“We can’t gather in big groups, we may not be able to attend our normal church gatherings, but we can still reach out as friends and family to give them a shoulder to virtually lean on,” Coffman said. offers a resource for both parents and children alike. The National Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453.

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