Unhealthy Home Environments Hinder Student Success

Alleyna Pitaso, Sports Editor

“You have to stay home in order to stay safe from Covid-19,” is what we’ve been hearing for almost a year now. But what happens when the risk of staying home outweighs the risk of contracting the virus? This is the reality for almost 8 million children across the country. Children living in abusive and unhealthy home environments have no escape during a time when we’re all encouraged to stay indoors.

In an article posted by the American Psychological Association, Psychologist Josie Serrata states that many households have been suffering from, “increased stress due to job loss or strained finances, and disconnection from social support systems.” All of these factors can lead to increased tension and anger that could result in parental violence against their children. Unemployment in West Springfield increased from 2.9% in 2019 to 7.3% in 2020. Due to quarantine lockdown and restrictions, many of the resources available for at-risk parents: childcare, schools, extended family, religious groups- are no longer an option. With fewer workers available, many aspects of Child-Protective Services are being spread too thin and they’re no longer able to conduct as many child-welfare home visits due to stay-at-home orders. This may lead to under reporting of child abuse and neglect. 

According to Mass.gov, Child Protective Services received over 54,000 reports of child abuse in Massachusetts in 2019. In 2020, that number dropped to 47,000 reports. What’s changed? WSHS adjustment counselor Maura Ryczek explained that, “as school adjustment counselors, there are many times that we are made aware of situations at home that negatively impact our students. When that happens, we work with the students and/or families to offer support and try to assist in any way possible.” However, at-home learning has made it difficult for mandated reporters like herself to witness incidents in which they would be allowed to report suspicions of abusive households. 

In West Springfield, the number of cases being reported as abuse and neglect are lower than usual this year, but the amount of students being referred to counselors is very high. This compares similarly to the state statistics that show that there has been a drop in abuse reports. There have been many times this year where they have been made aware of situations at home that negatively impact students, explains Ryczek. Unfortunately, many West Side students don’t feel comfortable meeting virtually, so many referrals are not being followed through. So what can be done to help?

In order to make up for the lack of in-person help that is currently available, WSHS counselors have set up a Terrier Counseling Corner Google Classroom page which has links to many outside resources available for struggling students. Access to resources like food, housing, and heat are only one email away. Though students may not be taking advantage of virtual meetings, the option is still there. There are three school adjustment counselors available: Mrs. Quigley, Mr. Izzo, and Ms. Ryczek, who are all able to meet with students via Google Meet to talk about any struggles they may be having at home. Now more than ever it’s incredibly important to reach out to those around you and check up on them. That one moment might be the reason they get the help they need. 

 

For any students that may be struggling, you are not alone, and there are supports available.    

 

If you would like to schedule a time to talk to a counselor, please email them.   

Mrs.Quigley- [email protected] (grades 11 & 12)

Mrs. Ryczek- [email protected] (grades 9 & 10)

Mr. Izzo- [email protected]s.org (504 Coordinator & SIP Program)

 

If there is a mental health crisis, there are also community resources:  

BHN Crisis Springfield: 733-6661

BHN Crisis Westfield: 568-6386

 

24 hour Suicide Prevention Hotline:  1 800 273 TALK 

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

 

24 hour Crisis Text Line:  Text   HOME to 741741

https://www.crisistextline.org/ 

 

CT Family Care Services: Call 413 285 8722

 https://ctfcs.com/