By Sharon McKinley and Julie Fliss, Child Welfare Program Specialists, Children’s Bureau, Office on Child Abuse and Neglect
The Children's Bureau's Office on Child Abuse and Neglect (OCAN) supports efforts that foster safe and stable environments for children and their families. Strengthening families through the promotion of protective factors can effectively prevent child maltreatment and create opportunities for families to flourish. This is highlighted in the theme for this year's 2019 National Child Abuse Prevention Month (NCAPM)— "Strong and Thriving Families" and aligns with the 21st National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect.
Children are at risk for maltreatment when they experience a stressful family environment. Families experience stress if they struggle to meet basic needs or encounter a crisis, such as the death of a family member, a natural disaster, or the loss of an income source. When families fall on challenging times, they need the support of their community to help get them back on track and thrive. Examples of this community support include Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) programs that develop, operate, expand, enhance, and coordinate initiatives to prevent child abuse and neglect at the state and local levels. Through CBCAP, state and local organizations partner to implement evidence-based and promising programs and practices that support families, engage parent leaders and increase awareness on child abuse and neglect prevention. Types of CBCAP programs include voluntary home visiting, parenting skills, family resource centers, respite and crisis care, parent mutual support, and many others.
One such CBCAP program is the McMains Children's Developmental Center (the Center), which is funded through the Louisiana Children's Trust Fund (LA’s CBCAP State Lead Agency). The Center offers services to parents and families of children ages 3 to 18 with significant cognitive and physical disabilities in the Baton Rouge, LA area. The "Me Too" program strengthens family connections so children with disabilities do not feel excluded from family life. In the 6-week training program, parents and caregivers learn how to use augmented communication devices like adapted books, toys, and appliances so children can be integrated into daily family activities, such as cooking, game night, and storybook reading. Social workers assist with case navigation, communication, scheduling, and access to additional resources to maximize benefits for the families. This program's approach promotes the nurturing and attachment protective factor by strengthening the parent-child relationship.
Protective factors are helpful characteristics, strengths, and situations in a child's environment that predicts positive outcomes later in life. Chapter 1 of the 2019 Prevention Resource Guide outlines six protective factors that promote child well-being and prevent child maltreatment. They include nurturing and attachment; knowledge of parenting and child development; parental resilience; social connections; concrete supports for families; and social and emotional competence of children. Many CBCAP programs use these factors to inform prevention strategies for children, families, and communities. For more examples of CBCAP programs, you can look through Chapter 2 of the Resource Guide, which highlights the work of an array of CBCAP programs. The guide also features tip sheets for parents and caregivers, so they can learn how to foster healthy home environments and cope with adverse childhood experiences (ACE). Tip sheets are available in both English and Spanish.
The 2019 Prevention Resource Guide is available for download on the NCAPM website, which also features additional resources for preventing child abuse and neglect. The website also includes interactive vignettes that demonstrate how protective factors are present in real-life scenarios and can be built upon to help cultivate family resiliency. You will also find resources related to ACEs that provide specific information about protecting children from early traumas and outline trauma-informed interventions that help to mitigate negative outcomes. Preventing child abuse and neglect is a community effort. Check out the Spread the Word section of the NCAPM website for free tools you can use to help raise awareness in your community for National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Join the nation in April and throughout the year, as we ensure families are strong and thriving in safe and stable environments.