Fears child abuse and neglect will skyrocket under Covid-19
NOW cared for by her grandmother, Maddie, five-years old, endured an early childhood that alarmingly is all too prevalent in NSW.
As a toddler she suffered years of physical and emotional neglect in a household where addiction to drugs including ice brought with it domestic violence.
Her story has been told today, as child protection organisation Act for Kids releases sobering statistics that children in NSW under 12 months of age are twice as likely to be abused or neglected than any other age group.
Infants, the welfare agency's CEO Dr Neil Carrington said, account for almost 10 percent of child abuse cases in the state.
In times of financial strain, such as the current COVID-19 lockdown, child welfare agencies are concerned more children will endure abuse and neglect.
"Our therapists in Blacktown support many children who have experienced trauma from birth, just like five-year-old Maddie," Dr Carrington said.
"Maddie came to Act for Kids after suffering years of physical and emotional abuse from her parents, and witnessing severe domestic violence and drug abuse, including ice.
She is now receiving speech therapy and psychological support every Monday to help her overcome her trauma and teach her the communications skills she needs to engage in education and build healthy relationships.
"Although she looks like any other little girl at first glance, the trauma she suffered has left scars that will last a lifetime without ongoing therapy," Dr Carrington said.
"It's the youngest kids, those that cannot even tell others what is happening to them, that are most likely to experience abuse and neglect.
He said authorities around the country are preparing for the number of child abuse and neglect cases to skyrocket as vulnerable families struggle to cope with the extreme pressures of COVID-19.
"In other countries where COVID-19 is more advanced, the number of reports involving vulnerable children are up by as much as 300%," Dr Carrington said.
"We are preparing for a tsunami of child abuse cases, and we need help to make sure we can reach as many at risk kids as soon as possible.
"Unfortunately, the demand for our services is growing as more children are trapped in homes that are not safe.
"This leaves young children extremely vulnerable, as they are developmentally unable to verbalise their thoughts and emotions."
Dr Carrington said that is why Act for Kids has launched its I love Monday's campaign, to raise funds to help more children, including from the Act for Kids therapy centre in Sydney.
If left untreated, abuse in childhood can result in debilitating, long-term consequences including mental health problems, unemployment, difficulty developing and maintaining healthy relationships, eating disorders and obesity, alcohol and substance abuse, and even suicidal behaviour later on in life.
With early trauma-informed support, children and young people can overcome their experiences, and go on to have happy and productive lives.
Dr Carrington said it's crucial we stand together to protect at risk children and support families who are struggling.
"To help Act for Kids reach children in urgent need of assistance, click here."