HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — It’s been 6 days as Hampton Police, the FBI, family, friends, and the community continue to search for 4-year-old Codi Bigsby. Codi’s dad, Cory Bigsby was recently arrested on seven counts of child neglect.

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This, stemming from incidents court documents say where he would leave his kids, all 5 years old and under, home alone.

Many in the community have questioned how did it get to this point? Or could this have been prevented?

Investigators may never have the exact answers in Codi’s case, but Dr. Viola Vaughan-Eden who’s an NSU professor and consultant for the local nonprofit, Champions for Children Prevent Child Abuse Hampton Roads, says in general most child neglect and abuse starts with stress.

“We know that child abuse and neglect occur on a continuum, we know that certain people have more aggressive personalities but in general the day-to-day issues are people who are under stress and can’t manage the stress,” said Dr. Vaughan-Eden.

She says it’s too soon to tell if COVID-19 has led to an increase in child abuse and neglect because the numbers aren’t in yet.

“What the forensic pediatricians are seeing is that when kids are coming into emergency rooms, they’re coming in with more severe injuries. What’s happening, we speculate, is child abuse didn’t stop overnight because Covid happened, but it wasn’t being reported because mandated reporters such as teachers and others that would see children on a daily basis are not having their eyes and ears on them. So yes, we speculate it’s still occurring and we speculate it may have increased from the amount of stress everyone’s under in this Covid era,” said Dr. Vaughan-Eden.

She says prevention starts with education which can come in the form of webinars, zoom chats, activity ideas, and local programs. The big thing for parents she says is understanding it’s okay to ask for help.
When it comes to the community, she says if you see something, say something.

“If anyone sees their neighbor leaving their child, that is the time to intervene, not after the children have burned the house down or swallowed some poison or go missing. If you’re not comfortable going and knocking on the door, that’s the time to call the police or call social services,” said Dr. Vaughan-Eden.

Moving forward, Dr. Vaughn-Eden says ending corporal punishment would be a big start. She says research shows it can harm the child’s brain, increase anxiety, and teach aggression.

“I’ve not had a single child death case in which at some point there wasn’t spanking involved or some discipline or I’m disciplining the child and the discipline got out of control,” she stated.

She says she’d like to see a “no hit zone” environment established that promotes effective parenting techniques without hitting.