Project Pinwheel

A note about COVID-19

During COVID-19, families are continuing to face increased stress. When seeing children and families, it’s important to acknowledge how hard parenting is right now and encourage parents to find connection by phone, video or other ways to get the support they need. In some cases, children may bear the brunt of increased stress in the home. In these situations, screening children for signs of abuse and referring to appropriate services beyond their immediate medical needs may prevent child abuse and neglect.

What Healthcare Providers Can Do

As a provider, you are in a unique and esteemed position to provide education and guidance to the parents you see in your practice.

You know their health history, and in some cases, you know about their family history, too. You may also be one of the first people to know when something doesn’t seem right. Yours is a trusted role. As primary care providers, pediatricians and dentists, you address your patients’ immediate health needs and offer guidance—often under circumstances when they are feeling their most vulnerable because of health concerns for themselves or their children.

Listen and Connect

Listen and Connect

Parenting is hard. Encourage patients to ask for help when they need it from those they trust—prompt them to consider who they can talk to and rely on when they need help.



In addition to assessing physical well-being, you may also assist families in addressing concerns related to mental well-being. You can help families and children by offering resources and guidance and by incorporating screenings that will help you to identify potential areas of concern. Here are a few options:

  • Screen for intimate partner violence and talk with patients about it. One in three women and one in 10 men in Spokane have reported experiencing domestic violence or intimate partner violence. The Domestic Violence and Health Care Partnerships Toolkit created by Futures Without Violence is a resource that providers can use to learn about ways to support patients and encourage healthy relationships.
  • Incorporate universal developmental screening into well-child check-ups and share information with parents about developmental milestones.
  • Work with new parents to understand their baby’s needs—including why babies cry. Understanding a baby’s needs and how to respond can help alleviate some frustration for new parents. Visit the Period of Purple Crying website to find more information and resources for new parents.
  • Refer families with children under the age of 3 experiencing developmental delays or disabilities to the Spokane Regional Health District Early Support for Infants and Toddlers at 509.324.1699 for assessment and appropriate services.
Educate and Share

Educate and Share

You are considered a trusted source of knowledge on the health and well-being of children and many of your patients respect that knowledge. If a patient appears to be struggling with the demands of parenting and other life stressors, share your knowledge and point them toward helpful resources.

  • Help families navigate complex health and social service systems by explaining eligibility, completing forms and providing a warm handoff to other services
  • Suggest community resources to help families. Parenthelp123 offers information to families about parenting, insurance, finances, and more. Frontier Behavioral Health has resources for adults and children and provides a 24-hour crisis line.
  • Spokane Regional Health District offers resources including the Women, Infant, and Children Nutrition program (WIC); the Nurse Family Partnership, which pairs low-income pregnant women with a nurse who provides ongoing visits; and the Children with Special Healthcare Needs program, which provides support, care coordination and resources for parents and children.
  • Dental care is important to the overall health and development of children. If families need help accessing pediatric dental care, they can contact the ABCD dental program for referrals to local dentists and support in coordinating care. In some cases, the program can also help adults access dental care in Spokane.
  • Vanessa Behan temporarily hosts children and provides a network of support to families in crisis. Children can stay for up to 72 hours.
  • If a family is impacted by domestic violence, YWCA can help with support, safety planning and other resources. The Kalispel Victims Advocates can help with legal resources and support in court and families do not need to be members of the tribe. They are available 24/7 at 1.877.700.7175.
  • Understand the research on the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on a child’s developing brain and consider ways that you can communicate with parents about ACEs. See recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics for more information about how to talk to parents about trauma and the importance of resilience, attachment, and bonding.


There are many ways that you can get involved in movements that advocate for children and families experiencing domestic violence and child abuse or neglect. Policies impact every aspect of our lives and you can make a difference.

  • Learn about ways that other advocates and health care organizations have helped clients and patients at DV Health Partnerships.
  • Advocate for policies that are shown to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect. Consider the research and policy recommendations presented by the CDC in Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect: A Technical Package for Policy, Norm and Programmatic Activities.
  • Check out advocacy resources, such as MomsRising or the Children’s Alliance for information about ways to support access to things all families need to be resilient and healthy, like safe and affordable childcare for all, consistent work scheduling, leave benefits for all employees or livable wages.
  • If you haven’t already, visit the County Elections office in-person or online to register to vote, check your voting status, or update your address.
Report, When Necessary

Report, When Necessary

Sometimes, despite other efforts, the most appropriate action when attempting to protect a child and make sure a family is receiving the services they need is to report suspected neglect or abuse to Child Protective Services (CPS). Here are some helpful tips:

  • Know the signs of child abuse and neglect. Are there repeated unexplained injuries? Do parents prevent children from explaining how they were hurt? Is preventative care such as immunizations and well-child exams frequently missed? When children have the courage to tell you about abuse or neglect, take them seriously.
  • Dentists, hygienists, and their support staff play an important role in protecting children from abuse and neglect as mandatory reporters in Washington state. While non-abusive injuries to the mouth are common throughout childhood, more than half of child abuse cases involve the face, neck and head. Dentists are in a unique position to distinguish the difference according to family history, injury circumstances, pattern of repeated traumas, behavior and development of the child, and caregiver or parent attitude and behavior. To learn more about how dental office staff can recognize and report child maltreatment (child abuse, neglect, and sex trafficking of minors) view this free course from the American Dental Association CE.
  • When you suspect or know of incidents of abuse or neglect, contact your local CPS office online or call 1.800.557.9671.