This article was written for our sponsor, the ncIMPACT initiative at the UNC School of Government.

The pandemic has disrupted almost every aspect of our lives, with various speculations about the levels of financial, economic and social impacts. To address the largest of these impacts, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is hearing from communities and partnering with them to fuel local recovery.

Carolina Across 100 is a five-year initiative at UNC-Chapel Hill that partners with communities across the state to solve their most relevant and pressing issues. The data findings will help create collaborative responses to these challenging COVID impacts.

“The Carolina Across 100 initiative involves local leaders from different sectors, talking about the issues their communities have faced since COVID-19. Many issues have been exacerbated by the pandemic,” said licensed attorney Sara DePasquale, professor associate at the UNC School of Government. who specializes in child protection law in North Carolina.

Young people are among those hardest hit by COVID, according to data from the Carolina Across 100. Many saw their daily routines disrupted when child care centers abruptly closed. At the same time, parents’ stress levels increased as they struggled to continue working while caring for children.

While many child care centers have reopened, some have not and a significant number have reduced capacity due to a lack of staff. The data clearly shows that the ripple effects of these reductions are impacting children as well as their parents and local economies.

Many factors influence access to childcare.

“Staffing is tough in child care centers,” said Mary Sonnenberg, president of the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County. “We don’t adequately compensate child care providers. The average salary is $10 to $12 per hour.

Many people in the state are looking for answers to this challenge. However, the challenge of not being able to access childcare is just the tip of the iceberg.

The pandemic and child abuse

More than 20% of respondents to the Carolina Across 100 survey indicate that the problem of child abuse has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With teachers and child care providers not having traditional access to children, it has been difficult for them and other caregivers to recognize problems as quickly as before.

“The kids weren’t in school and the nurseries were closed. We just couldn’t see the kids,” Sonnenberg said.

Information from the Carolina Across 100 survey results will help fill knowledge gaps about the impacts of the pandemic on children and families, Sonnenberg said. This data goes beyond the issues and provides residents of each county with information about the challenges they face and ways the University can help the community respond.

“Having that information and being able to look at community gaps is something we tried to do with our countywide plan,” Sonnenberg said. “Any strengthening of this data will help deliver more of the services people need.”

Perhaps surprisingly, the age at which the majority of first reports of abuse occur before the age of five highlights the need for services targeted at families with young children.

Statewide child welfare concerns

In another county, Wake, there was a drop in reported cases of child abuse from 3,785 in the 2018-19 school year to 3,041 the following year to 2,205 last year, according to data from Child Welfare in North Carolina, which examines reports of abuse. and neglect by county.

“Child abuse and neglect statistics are collected by county social services departments and are provided to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services,” DePasquale said.

The decline likely highlights the lack of reports from teachers and caregivers having face-to-face contact with their students during the pandemic.

“We know that during the pandemic this has been a real need,” Sonnenberg said. “Having kids at home and parents trying to work, as well as virtual kids, has created stress and a number of mental health issues as a result.”

However, with additional data and resources from Carolina Across 100, Sonnenberg hopes new opportunities will grow from these areas of need to better support children and their families.

This article was written for our sponsor, the ncIMPACT initiative at the UNC School of Government.