Preventing child abuse in communities

National Child Abuse Prevention Month helps communities understand their important role.

April is designated as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, providing opportunities to raise awareness about protecting children. As budget cuts threaten the safety net of services for vulnerable families, there are many ways that communities can actively support children’s safety.

Great progress has been made in work to improve the health and wellbeing of children by understanding both the risk factors and protective factors that influence family situations. Michigan State University Extension’s Nurturing Parenting program includes these factors in building parenting skills that promote positive family relationships.

Child abuse and neglect occurs in all socio-economic levels, and communities can develop and implement strategies that address known risk factors. Prevent Child Abuse America encourages providing support to parents who may be having economic, housing or personal problems, are isolated from their family or community, have difficulty controlling anger or stress, are dealing with physical or mental health issues, abuse alcohol or drugs, or who appear uninterested in the care, nourishment or safety of their children.

Protective factors help parents to find resources, support or coping strategies. They are conditions in families and communities that increase the health and wellbeing of children and families. They help parents who might otherwise be at risk of abusing their children to parent effectively, even under stress. Research and evaluation conducted by FRIENDS, the National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention has shown that protective factors are linked to a lower incidence of child abuse and neglect. The six protective factors are:

  • Nurturing and attachment
  • Knowledge of parenting and of children and youth development
  • Parental resilience
  • Social connections
  • Concrete supports for parents
  • Social and emotional competence of children

Communities in Michigan have increased access to services such as child care, health care, transportation, housing and food assistance by expanding the 2-1-1 call centers throughout the state. It is also a useful tool to locate support and treatment services such as parent education, substance abuse treatment programs, respite care for families who have children with special needs, and a wide variety of other services provided by community based and faith based organizations.

Many partnerships between professionals, businesses, concerned citizens, and other groups interested in child abuse prevention have been successful in developing local programs that provide a safety net to protect children. By working together, communities can help strengthen families and reduce child abuse. Everyone benefits from increasing effective parenting across the lifespan.

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