Child abuse investigators confront unimaginable challenges every day as they serve on the frontlines of the child welfare system where they witness domestic violence, drug abuse and open hostility.
Enter COVID-19, and the workers now confront yet one more alarming danger – this one invisible and potentially life-threatening. Child abuse investigators have been operating in the field with too little protection from exposure to COVID-19.
“Investigators are some of the bravest and most critical workers in the child welfare system” said Kathleen M. LaValle, president and CEO and of Dallas CASA. “They daily face challenges as they enter homes and unstable situations to ensure the safety and protection of our community’s most precious resource, our children.”
Kim Meth, a sworn child advocate for Dallas CASA, was able to secure 150 non-medical grade face masks for delivery to the Dallas office of Child Protective Investigations. Kim is the CEO of Timeline Promotions, a promotional products company she founded 25 years ago.
The masks were delivered this week and should provide some level of protection to workers responding to child abuse hotline reports. While the masks are not the medical grade N95 masks, CPS had been struggling to procure any protection at all, following multiple leads only to come up empty-handed.
“It felt good to actually be able to do something helpful in these scary days,” said Kim, who’s been involved with Dallas CASA Children’s Council since 2014.
Nationwide, there have been reports of fewer child abuse hotline calls during the pandemic. Unfortunately, this is not because child abuse has stopped. With school out and household tension high, children are at increased risk of being abused or neglected and have a lower chance of abuse or neglect being reported.
According to a local CPS official, this means while intakes are down a bit, stress is up for the entire child welfare system. The worry is that with kids at home, there is no teacher or school nurse to make the report. Hopefully, with masks in place, frontline responders will feel better protected as they seek to protect the safety of vulnerable children.