Reacting to child maltreatment is only part of the solution. We need to be proactive in preventing it.
Child Abuse Is a Public Health Issue
The overreaching goal of prevention is to stop child abuse and neglect from happening in the first place. Safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments for children and families are a tremendous deterrent. Influencing individual behaviors, improving relationships among families and neighbors, and encouraging community involvement are keys to the prevention of child abuse (CDC, 2016).
Protective Factors and Prevention Strategies
Protective factors buffer children from abuse and neglect. Protective factors have not been studied as much as risk factors but nevertheless, identifying and understanding protective factors is a critical component in reducing child abuse (CDC, 2016).
Six protective factors have been linked to a lower incidence of child abuse and neglect:
- Nurturing and attachment
- Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development
- Parental resilience
- Social connections
- Concrete support for parents
- Social and emotional competence (CWIG, 2013)
Family Protective Factors
- Supportive family environment and social networks
- Nurturing parenting skills
- Stable family relationships
- Household rules and child monitoring
- Parental employment
- Adequate housing
- Access to healthcare and social services
- Caring adults outside the family who can serve as role models or mentors (CDC, 2016).
Community Protective Factors
- Communities that support parents and take responsibility for preventing abuse (CDC, 2016).
Successful prevention strategies include programs that focus on individual behavior and attitude change, as well as efforts that change policies and societal norms to create environments that support safe, stable, nurturing relationships for children and families (CDC, 2016).
Many state, local, and tribal governments sponsor prevention activities and provide a variety of prevention services. Some prevention efforts are intended for everyone, such as public service announcements (PSAs) aimed at raising awareness about child maltreatment within the general population. Others are speciﬁcally targeted for individuals and families who may be at greater risk for child abuse or neglect (CWIG, 2013).
The most important prevention strategy is the development of safe, stable, and nurturing relationships. Other prevention strategies include:
- Home visiting to pregnant women and families with newborns
- Parenting training programs
- Intimate partner violence prevention
- Social support for parents
- Parent support programs for teens and teen pregnancy prevention programs
- Mental illness and substance abuse treatment
- Preschool enrichment
- Sufficient income support for lower income families (CDC, 2014)
See the Resources section for information and contact details for a number of support organizations that can provide assistance to Pennsylvania families.
Safe Haven of Pennsylvania (Newborn Protection Act)
Safe Haven of Pennsylvania, also known as the Newborn Protection Act, states that a parent of a newborn may leave a child in the care of a hospital or a police officer at a police station without being criminally liable as long as the child is no older than 28 days and is not harmed. Safe Haven gives parents a safe, legal, and confidential alternative to abandoning a baby.
To speak to someone about Safe Haven, call confidentially at: 1-866-921-SAFE (7233). Additional information, including promotional materials, can be found at the Safe Haven website: www.secretsafe.org (KKSP, 2018).