BELL COUNTY, TX — Every time a child gets placed under McKenzie Solo, a foster care case manager for families across Central Texas, a different horror story is told.
“I would say just about every single one of my cases has abuse of some sort, involved somehow and along the line somewhere,” she admitted.
She explained to 25 News about the stories she’s heard, from physical to sexual abuse and everything in between.
When the COVID-19 pandemic initially shut down most schools and daycares, reports of child abuse were decreasing.
“They're stuck at home with their abuser 24/7 instead of having at least the break of 'okay, I can go to school, and there's adults at school that I can reach out to if I feel comfortable,'” she said.
More children went about their business virtually this year, making teachers and adults far and few between for some kids.
“The first line of defense for all of these kids, the teachers, they're not seeing it,” Jeremy Berry, an associate professor of counseling and psychology at Texas A&M Central Texas said. “It's harder for them to see that via, you know, webcam or over a distance, so it is certainly a concern.”
Berry also explained that when a child is abused, it’s noticeable to any average person. From bruises to scars. However, a lot of it affects the child mentally, something he calls toxic stress.
“Over time, you'll start to see that impacting their behaviors, the way that they speak, and act and walk around,” he explained. “Those things become noticeable over time, but the changes can be very subtle.”
That’s why both Berry and Solo explained that being there for kids who are either going through abuse or rose above it is more important now that a nurturing adult may not be present as much as they usually would be.
“I hear you, I see you, I know what you've been through, but that does not define who you are, like, you are worthy, and you deserve everything that everybody else has in life,” Solo said.
A federal list of data, research and resources can be found on the CDC’s website.
Closer to home, local nonprofits are doing all they can to help the fight against child abuse.