The world is waiting for a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. In anticipation of successful trial results, preparations are being made for an unprecedented effort to achieve universal coverage and protection. But the interim measures to mitigate COVID-19 have brought their own severe and negative aftershocks. Global lockdowns and closures of schools and protective services have shone light on the vulnerability of children. Challenges of parenting under the strain of the epidemic are near-universal, and most harsh parenting is not malicious, but triggered by stress, poverty and mental health distress. In the extreme, the situation of fragile families affected by violence and neglect has worsened1, abusers have had increased impunity and victims have been cut off from supportive teachers, social workers and friends. The looming economic fallout and uncertainty is adding yet more pressure onto such family settings, with lifetime and intergenerational consequences for the children affected. But there is a cost-effective and scalable response.