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Child abuse increases after natural disasters

KIDLINE, 1-800-CHILDREN, a resource for stressed parents

Research shows that rates of child abuse increase anywhere from three months to one year following a natural disaster, and Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana is encouraging parents suffering from additional stress post-flood to call KIDLINE, 1-800-CHILDREN, to speak with a trained counselor if they need support.

KIDLINE is a toll-free, statewide helpline providing parenting information, crisis counseling, referrals to community resources, help for victims of child abuse and information on Louisiana’s Safe Haven Law. The line is currently available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, but will move to 24 hours in January 2017 and will also include web chat and phone text capabilities.

“Natural disasters such as the recent flood we experienced cause us to lose not only our homes and cars, but also our routines and regular sources of support,” said Amanda Brunson, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana. “Add to that an increased feeling of powerlessness, and parents can become overwhelmed, which is why we want them to know that KIDLINE is a resource available to them.”

Children are also experiencing more stress after the flood, but may not be able to verbally express it or process their emotions. This leads to reactions such as bed wetting, complaints of not feeling well and clinginess, which adds to a parent’s stress level and increases the risk of maltreatment.

A study conducted in 2000 found that child physical, sexual and emotional abuse increased three, six and 11 months after Hurricane Hugo in South Carolina and the Loma Prieta Earthquake in California. Another study found that intentional child traumatic brain injuries increased in the six months after Hurricane Floyd in North Carolina.

“Knowing this information, we want to start this conversation now, when we’re about two months out from the flood. We want parents to be aware of their own stress level and to take care of themselves, as well as take care of their children. And we’re calling on everyone in the community who didn’t flood to commit to watching out for their friends and neighbors who did,” said Brunson.

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