Child abuse prevention in the shadow of COVID-19

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - With families forced to stay home and schools closed, the message of Wear Blue Day and child abuse prevention might be more important than ever.

Wednesday was Wear Blue Day, a time to bring awareness to child abuse. It seems that COVID-19 has affected every aspect of our lives, and Wear Blue Day is no exception.

Blue pinwheels are planted in front of the Lucas County Courthouse like flowers for April's Child Abuse Prevention month, and the message these pinwheels represent may be more important than ever because of the COVID-19 virus.

"We can save children. We can protect children, and we can help them," Lucas County Children Services executive director Robin Reese said.

COVID-19 has made that mission harder.

"Everybody's saying for everybody to be at home, because home is a safe place, but for many of our kids and families in Lucas County, home is not a safe place," said Reese.

Family and Child Abuse Center CEO Dr. Christie Jenkins said there has been an uptick in child abuse and domestic violence cases.

"And not only seeing our numbers rise but seeing the cases being more severe because folks are not safe at home," Jenkins said.

However, referrals to Lucas County Children Services are down 50 percent.

"Wear Blue Day is especially significant this year because most of the safety nets for kids are not in place right now," says Reese.

Wear Blue Day is also special this year because it's a social media campaign, meaning it's pretty much the only event not canceled this month.

"We're talking about a $90,000 loss for us this year," said Jenkins.

But you can still help.

"We're hoping that on this day, folks take the time in our community to reach out to families. Text them, Skype them, Facetime them to be sure that they're OK and that the kids are OK," Reese said.

And both organizations are open and vigilant.

"We're still out here leading the community and protecting children, even during this pandemic," said Reese.

If you suspect a child is suffering, want to make a donation, or need resources for your family, you can contact Lucas County Children Services by clicking the link or calling 419-213-CARE (2273) to report abuse, or by visiting the Family & Child Abuse Prevention Center's website.