Arnold Palmer pediatric doctor sees uptick in child abuse cases during COVID-19 pandemic

8 trauma cases reported in last few weeks

ORLANDO, Fla. – Healthcare workers at the Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital are reporting an increase in child abuse cases as families stay home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Donald Plumley is the medical director for pediatric trauma at Arnold Palmer hospital. He said he's concerned by the uptick in child abuse cases and is worried the numbers could grow.

"It's tough times we're all going through. We really need to protect our children through this," Plumley said.

Plumley said they normally see one to two trauma cases a month. In the last few weeks, he said eight kids went to the hospital with severe injuries. Plumley said they were abused by their caregivers.

"These are children with, I'm talking multiple fractures, head injures that go to the operating room, severe burns. These are critical," he said.

Plumley said families are going through stressful times now. Many caregivers are battling unemployment and figuring out how to make ends meet.

“Put that all on top of now you’ve become a caregiver, at-home workers, a school teacher...there’s a lot of pressure on the family without a lot of resources to help,” he said.

Plumley said resources normally used to report child abuse aren't available right now.

"Traditionally you had a church to go to or school where not only could they help children, but they could identify," he said. "We have community groups and community outreach that can help families and even counseling opportunities, but unfortunately you're stuck at home and we've taken away all of those resources."

Plumley is encouraging everyone to do their part and check on their loved ones with kids.

"We can work through this and it's okay to feel this way. We all feel this way and you're not alone," he said.

He also shared some tips to help caregivers manage their stress, like creating a routine for their families, set simple goals for the day, connect with people virtually, take a break if you need one, and let your children know they will get through this.

"We're all in this together and when it gets down to it, you have this sense of isolation, but we don't. We have a big community to help," Plumley said.

A Florida Department of Children and Families spokesperson told News 6 as of Thursday, 9 employees tested positive for COVID-19 and 24 employees are voluntarily self-isolating and one was instructed by the state Department of Health to self-isolate.

DCF said its top priority is the safety and well-being of all children, adding through the pandemic child protective investigators are continuing to work and fulfill their responsibilities in a timely and effective manner.

"During times of uncertainty and stress like this, we encourage all Floridians to be vigilant and aware of the signs of child abuse," a DCF statement said. "Florida law requires any person who knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is being abused or neglected by a parent/caregiver should report it to the Florida Abuse Hotline."

Click here for information on the Florida Abuse Hotline.