Texas hospital sees spike in severe child abuse cases possibly related to COVID-19 stress

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Officials with Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas reported seven cases of severe child abuse between Tuesday, March 17 and Saturday, March 21. Two of those children died from their injuries.

Hospital officials noted they usually average six deaths a year from abuse.

In the seven recent cases, every child was under 4 years old.

Hospital officials said the spike was likely due to stress from lack of work or money, and feeling overcrowded in the home.

"We usually only average six deaths from abuse a year at Cook Children's, and now, we've had two children die on the same day," said Jamye Coffman, medical director of the Cook Children’s Center for Prevention and Child Abuse and Neglect and the CARE team​. "This is an issue related to stress. We are seeing it from all over from urban area to more rural counties."

Dr. Coffman said she believes these unprecedented times have simply become too much for some parents.

“People have so much increased stress right now,” Dr. Coffman said. “They’ve got financial stress. Some people lost their job, or worried about keeping their current job. They lost their income. You’ve got stress from being overcrowded. Everyone’s cooped up together. They feel like they can’t get away from each other. These stressors can lead to abuse.”

Their suggestion was to understand that it is normal to feel frustrated, but reach out to someone for help or advice.

Anyone who suspects abuse or neglect should contact police or the Department of Children and Families.