ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Many people involved in child welfare are seriously concerned right now about the potential for an increase in child abuse. Children often suffer during stressful times like the 2008 recession. Julie Evans is CEO of Alliance for Children, a non-profit organization in Texas, and she joins us from Fort Worth.
JULIE EVANS: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: There's a bit of a delay on the line. But I want to begin by asking you, when you hear that schools have closed or that families need to remain home, what sorts of warning bells go off in your head?
EVANS: Sure. I think as a professional in the field, we are concerned because educators as a group are the No. 1 reporter for child abuse allegations. These children are with them day in and day out. They build strong relationships with them. They are able to see trends and monitor kids every day. And when they lose the safety line to educators, we're concerned.
SHAPIRO: So there's one concern that educators won't have the contact with children to report signs of abuse. But is there also a concern that stressed-out parents who are under duress at home with their children are going to be striking out more than they would in ordinary times?
EVANS: You know, there are those concerns. Stress, isolation, a lack of resources are major contributing factors to child abuse every day, and what we're living through as a nation is heightened on all of those areas. So we are concerned for what it means for our kids at home when home isn't always a safe place.
SHAPIRO: So tell us what you've seen just these first couple of weeks in Texas.
EVANS: Sure. So in our community, what we've seen is an increase in the severity of our physical abuse cases. So we're seeing young children that are coming to our emergency rooms with severe injuries. We've even had child fatalities in our community, which just demonstrate the level of concern both our medical and law enforcement and responding teams have for the safety of kids at home. And at the same time, what we're not seeing is the typical number of cases we see in other parts of the abuse dynamics. We're exceedingly concerned for kiddos that are at home but don't have access to someone they can ask for help.
SHAPIRO: So what can organizations like yours do, or what can government officials who are charged with trying to stop this do?
EVANS: You know, I think one of the things we can do is to be forward about this. Be willing to have this difficult conversation, and try to reach out to parents, in a way, to say, parents, we know these are stressful times. Some of them are facing the loss of income. They're now the educators, the caregivers, the providers, all of these new roles all at once. So what we want to say to our parents is that it's OK to be stressed, but let's find ways for coping with stress that don't involve hurting our children.
SHAPIRO: Just briefly to conclude, is there anything that teachers and administrators can do even if they're not having the face-to-face interactions with these kids?
EVANS: Because we know they're now switching to on line interaction with children, we're hoping that educators can find creative ways to still engage with their children. And even if it's a simple ask, looking them in the eyes - how are you doing? Is there something I can do for you? We're hoping that will be a reminder to every child at home that these are protective adults who really care for them.
SHAPIRO: Julie Evans, CEO of Alliance for Children in Fort Worth, Texas, thank you for speaking with us.
EVANS: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE ALBUM LEAF'S "LOW DOWN // ORDINARY PEOPLE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.