What on the surface could appear to be good news may actually be obscuring a clearer picture of how the pandemic is affecting children in an unexpected way. Reports of suspected child abuse have dropped—dramatically—over the past year or so, according to an article from the Associated Press. At the same time, however, the AP’s review of records in Alabama, Arizona, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas indicate that child deaths due to suspected maltreatment (which includes both outright abuse and neglect) increased during the first 9 months of the pandemic. Pennsylvania, alone, had a 12% increase in such child deaths over the same period the previous year, and a 67% increase in near fatalities (injuries that left children hospitalized in serious or critical condition). A key factor is the reduced interaction children have had with responsible adults outside the home, such as teachers, coaches, scout leaders—and healthcare professionals—who in other years may have been likely to see evidence or pick up subtle signs that children are being abused or neglected at home. This highlights the need for urgent care providers, who may be all the more likely to see children who would otherwise have gone to their “regular” pediatrician, to be vigilant for suspicious injuries or behaviors in children. JUCM published an article on one such case. It may provide an example of how to respond to your suspicions. You can read A 5-Month-Old With Symptoms Beyond The Presenting Complaint in our archive.
Reported Child Abuse Is Down, but Deaths Are Up. What Can Urgent Care Do?