Grandparents, Child Abuse Crisis and the Pandemic

Child in an abuse crisis situation with grandparents

Having practiced child protection law for over 30 years, I am extremely alarmed by the abuse crisis that has emerged during the pandemic that has been permitted to remain unchecked.  The pendulum has swung to the extreme of keeping stressed parents together with their children, at all costs. This, at a time, when it is a fact that during times of parenting stress, there is an increased incidence of abuse.

The pandemic has brought about financial stress, mental illness, increased substance use, social isolation, over-crowding in the home,  and negative interactions with children. Many families are experiencing the trauma of severe illness or the loss of loved ones, including friends and family members due to COVID-19. This trauma is compounded by the cancellation of rituals, such as funerals, and the reduction and suspension of religious gatherings and grief support groups.  There is more online activity by children, increasing the risk of online sexual exploitation and bullying.

Yet, statistics will show that there is actually a decrease in reported cases of abuse.  The statistics are misleading. The decrease in reported cases is a direct result of minimized contact for children with individuals who could protect them. (e.g. school teachers, daycare providers, sports coaches, community groups, doctors, neighbours, grandparents, friends).  Social workers, along with other health professionals, have been advised to minimize nonessential services that involve direct contact with families. Far too many children are being left with their abusers.

Child protection agencies are experiencing strained resources with fewer workers available, making them unable to conduct home visits in areas with stay-at-home orders. Since children are not going to school, teachers and school counsellors are unable to witness the signs of abuse and report to the proper authorities. Also, many at-risk families may not have access to the technology children needed to stay connected with friends and extended family.

Exacerbating the situation, the conditions brought on by COVID-19 have increased the possibility of separation, isolation, and reduced social support, education, mental, and physical health services. Thus, children are at heightened risk for abuse.

If you are a grandparent, the legal system does afford you the opportunity to take legal action to assume custody of your grandchild, whom you suspect is being physically, emotionally or sexually abused.

The same holds true for a non-custodial parent who seeks to obtain custody of their child who is suspected of being abused by the custodial parent/step-parent.

The time is to act now!

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Lynn Kirwin

Lynn Kirwin has been practicing law for 28 years. She specializes in high conflict family law cases with a focus on resolving them in an expedient and results-oriented manner. She believes in saving the client costs. She offers the option of limited scope retainers. As well, coaches many clients through the process of family court including assisting them with self-representation at trial. Her wide breadth of knowledge has lead her to have published several books on family law as well as other areas of law. She has expertise in child abuse cases having worked as in-house counsel at a Children’s Aid Society and having represented parents in court on child protection cases. She also is a panel member for the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, providing representation for children in court. She volunteers her time as the Chair of a Board for a women’s shelter and as President of the Orillia Law Association. She has two daughters who attend university. She enjoys spending her free time travelling with her husband, road cycling and taking long walks with her two beagles.

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