Tuesday, April 2, 2013

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month – which provides us with a good opportunity to consider the role that we can all play in promoting the social and emotional well-being of children, families and the communities where they live. 

There are a number of great resources available to support efforts to prevent child abuse.  At CSSP our Protective Factors Framework is the foundation of our Strengthening Families work.  Research suggests that when these protective factors are well established in families the likelihood of child abuse and neglect diminishes.  Research also shows that these protective factors are also promotive – and serve to build family strengths and a family environment that promotes optimum child and youth development.  For policymakers, considering ways to include protective and promotive factors in policies aimed at ensuring the social and emotional well-being of children is one way to work toward sustained efforts at prevention.  Other resources available to support child and family wellbeing include:

  •  The Child Welfare Information Gateway has a number of reports and tools to promote well-being and prevent child abuse.  For policymakers, these resources include a state statutes database and information on state laws aimed at preventing abuse and neglect that address protecting children from domestic violence, reporting and responding to child abuse and neglect and maintaining child abuse and neglect records.   
  • The American Humane Association has a tip sheet that outlines small things you can do year-round to support the well-being of children and families.  
  • Zero to Three’s Policy Center has a number of resources on what it takes to build strong families with information ranging from meeting basic needs, child welfare to paid sick-leave. 

However, while there are great resources to support prevention efforts and promote strong families, our economic and political climate, particularly in light of the recent sequestration, has created circumstances that are less than supportive of these important efforts.  As highlighted by First Focus:

Under sequestration, which took effect on March 1, 2013, federal spending on services for vulnerable children and families took a large cut. This includes:
  • A $124 million cut to child welfare spending, including almost a $7.7 million cut to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment (CAPTA) programs. CAPTA funds community-based child abuse prevention programs which provide a range of services designed to strengthen families. Unfortunately, it continues to be underfunded and these community-based organizations often have to rely on charitable donations. CAPTA needs to be adequately funded in order to effectively protect vulnerable children by supporting parents experiencing job loss and financial stress.
  • A $6.5 million cut to the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program. Authorized by the Affordable Care Act, it allows nurses, social workers, or other professionals to meet with at-risk families in their homes, evaluate the families’ circumstances, and connect families with the resources and supports needed to make a real difference in developing healthy-parent child relationships in high-risk families. This program needs continued investment and effective programs should be broadly replicated.
Cuts like these, as well as others to safety net programs like the Child Care Development Block Grant and the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) put additional stress on at-risk families who are already struggling.

With these types of significant cuts happening at the federal level, it is more important than ever for state policymakers to consider their role in supporting children and families.  Whether through incorporating a protective factors framework, taking a look at what innovative strategies other states are considering or make small changes to the way you do business – everyone has a role to play to ensure that all of our children, families and communities thrive.

For policymakers April is a good time to consider the policies in place in their states aimed at supporting social and emotional well-being.  For results-based policy strategies aimed at promoting social and emotional well-being visit our policy for results section on promoting social, emotional and behavioral health or download our corresponding report.  For more resources on ensuring that children grow up in families that are safe, supportive and economically successful click here.

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