Every summer, Child Protective Services (CPS) experiences what should be a welcome respite: a reduction in the number of suspected child abuse and neglect reports. Unfortunately, the decrease in reports made to CPS belies a more insidious truth. Research indicates that child abuse and neglect actually increase during the summer months. First, the amount of time children spend at home rises dramatically during the summer months, creating additional opportunities for abuse and neglect to occur. Second, the summer break means that children are out of the line of sight of “mandatory reporters”, i.e. teachers, school nurses, school counselors, and other school-based personnel. Child welfare workers are well aware of the pattern of diminishing child abuse and neglect reports and readily anticipate the counterintuitive nature of fewer reports of child maltreatment at a time when instances of child abuse and neglect are believed to increase.
If this phenomenon is the norm for regular, scheduled school breaks, it raises the question of what effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on reports of suspected child abuse and neglect. Given the widely accepted belief that social isolation and elevated stress levels play a significant role in increased maltreatment of children, the pandemic compounds the issue with the additional concerns of contracting COVID-19, the widespread loss of income, and increased time spent in proximity to potential abusers, making our youth increasingly susceptible to maltreatment. Furthermore, the pandemic has also created lapses in family services, such as substance abuse counseling and anger management classes, deemed critical to fostering harmonious family environments This is of particular concern because many instances of domestic violence intersect with substance abuse.
A look at the number of suspected child abuse or neglect calls to the CPS reporting hotline illustrates the dramatic decline in reports in March of 2020, the month in which public schools ceased in-person instruction on campus. While students were still attending school in person during the first week of March, there were over 11,000 reports made to CPS. During the last week of March, when online instruction began, less than 6,000 reports were made. Roughly 25% of all child abuse and neglect reports are made by teachers, childcare workers and other community-based organizations; thus, this drop indicates that many suspected cases during school closures due to the COVID-19 lockdown went unreported. Furthermore, it raises concerns about a potential influx of reports now that many students have returned to school and how an already overwhelmed CPS system can efficiently investigate allegations of abuse or neglect. Even more disturbing are the rapidly approaching extended school breaks of the holiday season removing children from the line of sight of teachers, school nurses, and other school-based personnel, thus setting off the cycle of increased likelihood of child maltreatment and underreporting once again. In conjunction with Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s recent admonition that rising numbers of COVID-19 cases may necessitate another lockdown, fears of unreported child maltreatment remain.
***CPS encourages anyone who believes a child is being abused or neglected to call 1-800-252-5400 or to report it online at txabusehotline.org***
Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescence is being sued for physical and sexual abuse of their child patients. Law firm Breit Cantor filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit in Richmond Circuit Court on October 20, 2020, against Cumberland and its parent company Universal Health Services (UHS), its former Medical Director Dr. Daniel Davidow, and Herschel “Mickey” Harden, a former psychotherapist who was indicted in February for sexually abusing a former female client.
The allegations in the lawsuit go as far back as 2008. As per a report by CBS News 6, Dr. Davidow took femoral pulses of his female clients and would “place his hand beneath the minor patient’s undergarments and sexually abuse the minor patient by intentionally touching the minor patient’s intimate body parts.” Additionally, Dr. Davidow “wasn’t taking the femoral pulse of patients when their parents were in the room, he was only taking the femoral pulse of patients when they were alone when they didn’t have somebody there to speak for them and when they are the most vulnerable.” Patients as young as 12 years old have made allegations of sexual abuse by the doctor.
The complaint filed alleges some of the following:
- UHS, Cumberland, Davidow, and Harden constantly pressured staff to change the primary diagnosis of patients, chart aggressive or sexually aggressive precautions in the patients’ records, and otherwise made fraudulent and materially false statements in medical records to justify longer stays.
- If a patient’s parent or guardian would not consent to admission or questioned changes to the medical records, the staff at Cumberland Hospital would threaten to call the police and the Virginia Department of Child Protective Services to force the patients’ parents to admit their child to Cumberland Hospital and silence them from making reports or question decisions made by Cumberland, UHS, Davidow, and Harden.
- Contrary to Cumberland’s “Seclusion and Restraint Philosophy and Family Notification,” UHS, Cumberland, Davidow, and Haden frequently used physical restraints and seclusion to coerce, discipline, and retaliate against patients.
Davidow since then has had his medical license revoked. The hospital is also alleged to have been playing a money game, by moving clients around the hospital to different beds in order to increase profits. This is being done even though Cumberland does not have adequate staff, proper licenses, and resources to take care of the children. The allegations against Davidow were brought up in a group session led by an intern. As stated by an alleged victim per CBS 6 News “He had me slide down my pants and he grabbed my underwear and pulled them down.” Additionally, the alleged victim stated, “I was obviously very tense because it was a very uncomfortable situation and he was like just relax, just relax and he still did not have gloves on.”
The complaint can be found here.
For more information see the CBS News 6 press release.
 Laura French, $127M lawsuit filed against doctors, Cumberland Hospital for Children for alleged sexual abuse, CBS News 6, (Oct. 21, 2020, 6:09 PM), https://www.wtvr.com/news/problem-solvers/problem-solvers-investigations/127m-lawsuit-filed-against-doctors-childrens-hospital-for-alleged-sexual-abuse.