April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Erie County Department of Social Services is reminding residents that help and supports are available for families feeling increased stress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many families are touched by job losses and reductions in hours, children who would normally be at school under the watchful eyes of teachers and administrators are confined to home with parents under stress, and family celebrations have been cancelled due to the ongoing need for social distancing.
Commissioner of Social Services Marie Cannon said, “Child welfare agencies across the country are reporting decreased numbers of calls to their respective child abuse reporting lines, and Erie County child welfare professionals are observing a similar trend. We are concerned that, while children are confined at home, they may be subjected to unobserved abuse or maltreatment. We understand that parents are under stress, and we are asking Erie County parents and other caregivers to please reach out if they need help during this difficult time.”
The following resources are available to parents and other caregivers who need support and assistance:
•The Family Help Line, operated by the Family Help Center, is a resource available 24 hours per day, seven days a week for anxious, overwhelmed or upset caregivers. Understanding listeners are available at 716-892-2172 to provide information and resources to help address the concerns that prompted the call. Callers are allowed to remain anonymous. Moreover, 90% of the caregivers who contact the Family Help Line are able to positively change their behavior toward their children to allow those children to remain safely in their homes.
•EPIC (Every Person Influences Children) has launched a parent support line at 716-332-4111. The parent support line operates weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. It is staffed by EPIC team members trained in parenting and social work.
Parents are welcome to call in for help with stress management, establishing homeschool routines, positive discipline strategies, and any issues that arise while being home with their children. EPIC recognizes parents are being asked to juggle a lot right now, and, while EPIC has shifted to a primarily virtual service model, it wants to provide support and resources for parents. The EPIC parent support line is open to all families, including those that have not previously attended EPIC programming.
•Crisis Services operates several helplines to assist Erie County residents with challenges such as addiction, mental health disorders, and domestic violence. During these uncertain times, Crisis Services understands it is normal to have a wide range of emotions, responses and reactions.
A press release noted, “A stressful event can have an impact on anyone, and especially for those with preexisting conditions. Their team of trained counselors is ready to offer support and guidance to the community. They have the protocols and resources in place to maintain a high level of care and compassion when you or someone you know needs it most.”
At Crisis Services:
•The 24-hour crisis helpline number is 716-834-3131.
•The 24-hour addictions hotline number is 716-831-7007.
•The 24-hour domestic violence helpline is 716-862-HELP.
•Crisis Services also operates a kids helpline at 716-834-1144.
The Family Justice Center is a resource for families experiencing interpersonal violence. FJC services are available by phone, email, and an online chat-box (https://www.fjcsafe.org/ ) to help those who need support. FJC urges those having an emergency or who need immediate help to call 911. For help with other questions or services, call the FJC SafeLine at 716-558-SAFE (7233). Representatives will be available to help with safety planning and links to needed services during this time.
FJC encourages the public to stay tuned to its website and social media channels for the latest updates.
For more information on the Erie County Department of Social Services, visit https://www2.erie.gov/socialservices/.