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Childhelp Hotline: 800-4-A-CHILD

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AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The coronavirus has brought our bustling nation, and life as we know it, to a grinding halt. During a crisis, it is easy for us to forget about the vulnerable as we "circle the wagons" and focus on our day-to-day survival in this new normal. However, during times like these, it is imperative to remember those of us who are vulnerable and less fortunate.

Perhaps one of the most vulnerable groups is America's children. As families spend more time than ever together, it's critically important that families have reliable tools to assist and support their kids. Children who may have already been struggling with depression, anxiety or sadness may now have those challenging feelings further compounded by the isolation that comes as a result of mandated stay-at-home orders.

Statistics show that every year, millions of children across the United States are faced with some form of abuse at home. As heartbreaking as this is, it is very likely that the abusive treatment for many of those children, who are now spending more time than ever with the very individuals abusing them, will increase to alarming numbers. That's where an organization like Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline comes into play. According to Childhelp's "Child Abuse Statistics and Facts," a report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds and "approximately 5 children die every day because of child abuse."

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Childhelp has reported a 20% increase in calls and has reported 4 to 5 times the number of texts from abused children when compared with the same time last year.

Tragically, it is reasonable to assume that this uptick is just the beginning of an alarming trend. These numbers are likely to increase significantly as the stress of job and wage loss takes its toll. As a result, people may not have enough money for basic things like groceries and mortgage or rent payments. These stressors will act as triggers that could exacerbate the level and frequency of child abuse. Additionally, police departments who work in coordination with child protective services are seeing numbers rise. To put it frankly, children's lives are at risk, and we must act now.

Children, and in some cases teenagers, are scared, stressed and aren't sure what to do or who to look to for support and escape. Organizations like Childhelp are available and offer safe avenues for children to be able to communicate their abuse.

With the launch of their new text system, their data analytics showcases that a significant percentage of children prefer to communicate via text or online instead of calling. Those numbers are drastically up, which elucidates the toll the coronavirus is taking on stressed adults and how they're taking that stress out on vulnerable children.

To make matters worse, the organization has had to suspend a number of its essential services for child abuse victims across the country because of government mandates to control the virus. As a result, many children are left without any recourse, further putting their lives at risk. We must also consider that because children are home rather than attending school, day care and afterschool activities, abuse that may have once been noticed by concerned adults will now go unreported.

The free Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (800-4-A-CHILD) is critical for the prevention and intervention for abused and neglected children, particularly in times like these. For children in abusive situations, it's not a matter of months until things get better. They need help now. This is why Congress must act now to fund Childhelp so that their essential services can be made available to the children in need all over the country.

Both domestic violence and suicide hotlines received much needed additional funding in the recent emergency bill passed by Congress, which is a good thing. However, we cannot and must not forget about our children. As Congress prepares for additional stimulus packages, I urge the leaders in both the House and Senate, Republican and Democratic, to include funding for this necessary organization, so that it can continue to serve our children.

This problem will only get worse if Childhelp is unable to reopen all of its essential services or unable to expand to support the increased need as a result of the coronavirus. We have taken care of our business both small and large, and we are providing relief to millions of American families.

It's time that we remember the vulnerable children across America who are crying in silence. They desperately need our help, perhaps more than anyone else, during this time. Their silent tears must not go unheard.

To find out more about Armstrong Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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