In nine states, county governments have responsibility and authority for administering the child welfare system while others share that responsibility with the state government. County governments are often involved in providing domestic and family violence services. As intimate partners and families with children shelter in place, many are struggling with isolation and the economic impacts of COVID-19 on employment, food access and early childhood supports. Moreover, racial and economic disparities exacerbate these issues.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, intimate partner violence cases have increased in many counties while child abuse and neglect case have gone down; however, this may be due to decreased contact with mandated reporters, such as early educators and teachers, school officials, nurses, doctors and other medical professionals and mental health providers. Officials expect dramatic spikes in reports when schools and other activities resume. In response, counties are working to expand domestic violence services and promote public health standards for providers offering shelter care. Using telehealth and telecommunications for providing services known for reducing risk factors are critical during this pandemic. Counties are also revising protocols to promote public health standards during in-home visits and investigations.
The health and safety of residents are paramount for counties. County human services staff are on the frontlines providing essential medical, nutrition and financial assistance and economic supports to children, families and older adults at a critical time in our country and helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19.