COVID 19 has created a completely new normal. In the matter of a few weeks, almost every way we socialize and create community locally changed dramatically. While many human services organizations, including SACA, have been creative in addressing community issues, the fact remains that some community safeguards for children and those in crisis no longer exist.
SACA is proud of its work as a community leader in the education and prevention services arena. These topics include hard conversations, but our children deserve no less. The first step to keeping our community and children safe is knowing the signs and knowing what you can do to help.
This is why we are one of four leading human service organizations strategically partnering with Standing Together, a partnership dedicated to protecting our children during COVID-19.
Standing Together in collaboration with Safe Communities, Joining Forces for Children, SACA’s Nuestra Clinica Education & Prevention Services (NCEPS) and Penn Medicine LGH to bring awareness to issues of COVID-19 illness, mental health, and abuse and neglect during the pandemic, specifically for children. The coalition works together to spread awareness through social media, partnerships with other local agencies, printed flyers, and workshops offered by Safe Communities.
You can do your part by learning about and looking for the signs of children in need.
Slowing the Spread of COVID-19
Slowing the spread of COVID-19 starts with the practice of healthy habits: frequent hand-washing, trying not to touch our faces, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, wearing a face mask when out in public, covering a cough or sneeze with our elbow, and following good social distancing when in public. When we all do our part, we help keep our community healthy and safe.
Protecting our Children’s Mental Health
36% of students surveyed reported feeling sad or depressed most days in the past 12 months. Children may need to talk to mental health professionals if: they are experiencing increased sadness or worry; they are over or under eating or sleeping; they have become angry or aggressive toward others; or they are acting much younger than their age. We can help our children during stressful times by reassuring them that their feelings are normal, teaching them coping techniques, actively listening to our children and their concerns, surrounding ourselves and them with positive people, and taking care of our own physical and mental health.
Protecting Children of Addiction from Abuse or Neglect
Standing Together is also active in addressing mental health and abuse issues facing children in Lancaster County. A pandemic makes identifying and seeking help for children very complicated. At-risk children are often identified for help by neighbors, community leaders, educators, and healthcare providers. Shelter at home orders and home schooling make finding and helping these children a tricky matter. It is estimated that 1 in 5 children live in a home with some suffering from substance use disorder. Children of addiction are 2-3 times more likely to experience abuse or neglect.
Learn more about the sign of abuse or neglect here. If you suspect abuse or neglect or know of any children in need of help, please call ChildLine at 1-800-662-HELP.
Protecting our Children from Sexual Abuse
1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused. Children are now in limited contact with teachers, pastors, nurses, program directors, and others who could help them. Signs of sexual abuse include: unexplained changes in behavior including outbursts of anger, aggression, depression, withdrawal, hurting themselves, fear of a specific person, sexualized behavior with other children or adults, expressing a desire to kill themselves or someone else, loss of appetite, poor sleep, and constant anxiety.
Questions that show we care include: You look really sad. Is there anything I can do to help? Is somebody hurting you or making you feel uncomfortable? If you need to talk to someone, I’m here.
If you suspect sexual abuse, call the ChildLine at 1.800.932.0313.
SACA will always rise to meet the needs of our residents: from STI testing and clinical management to addiction to food insecurity. I encourage you, if you have not done so recently, to visit our website and learn more about our services and programs.