South Dakota News Watch offers a useful article about concerns that pandemic isolation and stress may have increased child abuse in South Dakota, just as there are signs that children nationwide suffered more risk from guns and violence at home during the disruption caused by coronavirus.
But the lesson here is not that we should adopt South Dakota’s anarcho/crony-capitalist approach of letting people do whatever the heck they want. The lesson appears to be that detecting, stopping, and preventing child abuse requires active community and government efforts to support children and families so they do not end up isolated and desperate:
The pandemic showcased the important role communities play in advocating for and listening to children, several experts said.
Thunder Valley put together wellness packages for young people that included sports equipment such as soccer balls, hula hoops, jump ropes. Some students didn’t have a good place to study, so the organization connected kids to counselors and provided some in-person support and homework help.
Bettelyoun and her team at the Oglala Lakota Children’s Justice Center went along with some school lunch deliveries during the lockdown as a way to keep in contact with and check on kids. The organization also helped get tablet devices to children Danielle Ferguson, “Experts Fear Child Abuse Rose and Was More Severe in S.D. During Covid-19 Pandemic,” South Dakota News Watch, 2021.05.05.
Sure, school and business closures are hard on kids and their families. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do them to prevent the spread of a deadly disease. It does mean—and here’s where South Dakota government has balked egregiously during this pandemic—that we have to work even harder as a community, through government, to protect children. Instead of just writing checks to the business friends and well-off relatives of government officials, we have to direct more resources toward schools and social services to directly support children and their parents. We have to hire more teachers and support staff for our K-12 schools so our teachers have more time to interact with kids remotely and watch for signs of trouble at home. We have to put more money in workers’ pockets so they can afford to spend more time at home with their kids without feeling the financial stress that often turns into verbal or physical abuse.
We have to take care of each other, during pandemics and during normal times. That’s a hard pill to swallow for South Dakota elected officials who want Adam Smith’s ghost to solve everything by magic and leave them more time to pose with their cronies at rodeos and campaign rallies. But if we really love children and families, we have to make a collective effort to keep them safe and healthy.