South Florida Cases Of Violence Against Children Part Of National Trend – CBS Miami
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A devastating case in which a father killed his child and himself occurred a year after a mother was accused of murdering her special needs child.
These are local examples of a worrying national trend in violence against children that health professionals attribute to pandemic stress.
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However, there are resources in South Florida that can help.
Over the past year, the pandemic has put a serious strain on mental health.
“Problems like anxiety, depression, irritability, suffering, really for everyone, have increased,” says Dr. Jill Ehrenreich-May, Professor of Psychology at the University of Miami. “There are some metrics that indicate up to 40% to 50% increases in these types of symptoms.”
She says that unfortunately children can be the target of frustration or anger.
“When we are in a parental context with our child, we don’t get enough space to breathe, to move away from it and look at it more objectively and let these feelings down,” says Dr. Ehrenreich May.
Police say John Stacey killed his 4-year-old son Greyson Kessler last week before he killed himself.
This week a year ago, Patricia Ripley was accused of drowning her autistic son Alejandro.
“It really affected all families, even if you didn’t know them personally,” says Rabbi Yossi Harlig. “Especially since it happened in our own backyard.”
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Rabbi Harlig is the director of Friendship Circle Miami, which brings together volunteer youths with children on the autism spectrum. The Tyne organization not only supports the children, but also their parents.
“Although Alejandro did not come to our special programs, it happened in our community,” explains Rabbi Harlig. “In the spectrum child-rearing community, everyone feels like their family because everyone identifies with one another.”
Overall, child abuse has increased over the past year. According to the CDC, the percentage of emergency admissions related to child abuse and neglect increased from 2.1% in 2019 to 3.2% in 2020.
“I think it is important that parents, family members or friends realize that you do not have to carry this alone,” says Rabbi Harlig. “You have to use the community and the resources.”
Help is available through places like Friendship Circle and the University of Miami.
“We offered parents short telemedicine sessions in which they could connect with each other,” says Dr. Ehrenreich-May. “You can also find other people who may be a little more distressed, and maybe I found it difficult to deal with and share their experiences with one another.”
As part of the Children’s Trust-funded COPE project, they offer free telemedicine sessions to parents of children with autism. To learn more, click here.
UM Families First offers free groups for parents of children under the age of three.
The UM parent-child interaction therapy program for parents of children under nine with emotional and behavioral problems is also free.
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Additional resources are the FIU’s parents’ club.