When we say “child abuse prevention” we are talking about creating safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for children and families. While everyone can agree we want to prevent child abuse and neglect, understanding evidence-based strategies and programs to achieve this are less commonly known.
Primary prevention activities seek to raise the awareness of the general public, service providers, and decision-makers about the scope and problems associated with child maltreatment. These efforts are in the hope of stopping abuse and neglect before they occur.
- Public service announcements that encourage positive parenting
- Parent education programs and support groups that focus on child development, age-appropriate expectations, and the roles and responsibilities of parenting
- Family support and family strengthening programs that enhance the ability of families to access existing services, and resources to support positive interactions among family members
- Public awareness campaigns that provide information on how and where to report suspected child abuse and neglect
Activities for communities that have risk factors associated with child maltreatment, such as poverty, parental substance abuse, young parental age, parental mental health concerns, and parental or child disabilities
- Parent education programs located in high schools, focusing on teen parents, or those within substance abuse treatment programs for mothers and families with young children
- Parent support groups that help parents deal with their everyday stresses and meet the challenges and responsibilities of parenting
- Home visiting programs that provide support and assistance to expecting and new mothers in their homes
- Respite care for families that have children with special needs
- Family resource centers that offer information and referral services to families living in low-income neighborhoods
Activities focus on families where maltreatment has already occurred (indicated) and seek to reduce the negative consequences of the maltreatment and to prevent its recurrence.
- Intensive family preservation services with trained mental health counselors that are available to families 24 hours per day for a short period of time (e.g., 6 to 8 weeks)
- Parent mentor programs with stable, nonabusive families acting as “role models” and providing support to families in crisis
- Parent support groups that help parents transform negative practices and beliefs into positive parenting behaviors and attitudes
- Mental health services for children and families affected by maltreatment to improve family communication and functioning
This prevention model includes strategies at all levels and identifies societal level prevention strategies, such as economic supports for families, access to early care and education and family friendly work policies, as the foundation that is necessary to support the success of strategies at all the additional levels in preventing child abuse and neglect.
Ecological Framework for Prevention, Child Welfare Gateway, https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/overview/framework/ecological/
The Social-Ecological Model: A Framework for Prevention, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,