SPOKANE, Wash. – We are entering week three of virtual learning for many local students, including those within Spokane Public Schools. Kids all over the community have been out of the classroom since March. Staff at Vanessa Behan fear because of that, countless cases of abuse or neglect are going unreported.
“Right now, stress is mounting and there comes a tipping point,” said Executive Director Amy Knapton Vega. “Usually, children are who is most at risk. If our kids can’t be in school, the risk for abuse and neglect just skyrockets.”
When the pandemic hit back in March, volunteers and staff at Vanessa Behan immediately worked to change the way they do business. They started caring for children up to the age of 12 and prepared to help them distance learning.
“I know it’s very stressful for parents right now,” Vega said.
Reports state CPS reports are down by roughly 50 percent, Vega told our Help Me Hayley. It’s a stat that provides ‘false comfort,’ as many fear, cases of abuse and neglect could be higher than ever.
“It gives you a reality check,” she said. “The people who report (abuse and neglect) are not the general public. It’s teachers, therapists, counselors, school staff, child care providers. They make the reports and they’re not seeing these kids anymore.”
Vanessa Behan takes in as many children as they can each day, but money is tight. Their ability to fundraise has been greatly reduced, while the need for their support and services continues to increase.
“We don’t know what our funding will look like in the future,” she said.
All they do know is the facility if full of people who just want to help those who are struggling. That includes volunteer Kim Summers.
“I’m a teacher during the day usually, but right now we’re closed,” Kim said. “I wanted to make sure there was something I could do to give back to community.”
Kim spends her volunteer hours working to ease the sting for children coping with the effects of COVID.
“Some of them seem to be having emotional issues, I gravitate toward them and want to go sit with them and just talk with them,” she said. “I just wonder what’s going on in their head, what do they need?”
With each child and family it varies. But one thing so many have in common is that the pandemic has made already rough situations so much worse.
KHQ is working with Vanessa Behan to raise money so they can continue helping families in our community. Please join Hayley Saturday, Oct. 3 for our annual telethon. You can call in donations anytime during the show from 7-9:30.
For more information on Vanessa Behan and the work they do, go HERE.