For Immediate Release: Group run by homeschool alumni advises social workers on supports for children isolated due to COVID-19
05/12/2020—The Coalition for Responsible Children (CRHE) is offering advice to child welfare professionals on supporting children isolated at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Since our founding in 2013, we have advocated for children who are isolated by parents who misuse homeschool laws to hide their abuse,” says Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE, a national nonprofit focused on child advocacy. “We wanted to put some of our knowledge to use.” CRHE’s report, School-Age Child Isolation and Abuse: Children at Home Due to COVID-19, is co-authored with the Center for Child Policy, a division of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children.
School closures prevent teachers from observing children for signs of child maltreatment. Local child welfare agencies in many areas have already noted that child abuse and neglect reports fell dramatically after schools were closed and stay-at-home orders went into effect. In addition, social isolation is associated with an increased risk of child fatality, according to a 2016 report by the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities. Social isolation can also lead to an escalation of existing abuse: a 2014 study of child torture found that school-age victums’ removal from school to be homeschooled “was accompanied by an escalation of physically abusive events.”
Coleman says she and her colleagues started worrying about children impacted by school closures early on. “Working in this area, we are well aware of the negative impact social isolation can have on child welfare,” says Coleman. CRHE’s report outlines various ways child welfare professionals can support children isolated due to school closures, offering insight on topics such as how to identify child maltreatment when children are socially isolated and thus less visible. Among other recommendations, the report points to research suggesting that internet access can be a protective factor.
“Our goal is to share what we know from our own advocacy with child welfare workers who are dealing with a difficult situation,” says Coleman. “We understand the public health reasons behind school closures. We want child welfare professionals to have all of the tools possible to protect and support children impacted by these closures.”
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education empowers homeschooled children by educating the public and advocating for child-centered, evidence-based policy and practices for families and professionals.