Child Abuse Prevention – A Three Tiered Approach

With approximately three million cases of child abuse and neglect reported every year, child mistreatment is a serious issue in the United States. There are a number of programs that exist at the state and federal level whose purpose is to reduce and prevent child mistreatment. The U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesChild Welfare Information Gateway advocates a three-tier approach to combating child abuse and neglect. Primary prevention programs (also known as “universal strategies”) are targeted at the community at large, in order to raise community awareness and prevent abuse and neglect from occurring. Secondary prevention programs (“selective strategies”) are targeted at families that have been identified as high-risk for child abuse or neglect, such as parents who are low-income, physically or mentally disabled, or young. Tertiary prevention programs (“indicated strategies”) are intended to provide support to families where abuse or neglect has already occurred, so that it does not recur. Christopher Keane and The Keane Law Firm work hard to defend America’s children against abuse and neglect. Please don’t hesitate to contact The Keane Law Firm if you or somebody you know need legal representation to deal with a case of child mistreatment. Most importantly, if you or somebody you know need to report suspected child abuse or neglect, or needs to speak with a counselor, please contact Childhelp® at 1-800-422-4453. Raise Community Awareness – The Primary or Universal Approach There are a variety of ways that state, government, and non-profit agencies can reach the general public and make a broad-based attempt to prevent child abuse. Community awareness of abuse and neglect is the first step in preventing mistreatment. These messages are expected to reach not only potential abuser, but also members of the community and organizations that could potentially provide support to parents or children in need. Some of the ways that community awareness can be raised are:
  • Funding and prioritizing state-sponsored prevention programs. Instead of focusing on simply reporting child abuse, states need to be encouraged to budget for prevention programs in order to prevent abuse before it begins.
  • Training mandatory reporters. The majority of child abuse cases are reported by professionals, most of whom are considered mandatory reporters. This means they are required by law to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect, and can be held accountable if they fail to properly report any suspected case of child mistreatment. The goal of these training programs is to acquaint professionals with the signs and symptoms of child abuse, so they become better able to quickly report suspected cases of abuse or neglect.
  • Producing printed material and public service announcements intended to educate the community about the signs of child maltreatment, how to report suspected cases of abuse and neglect, and provide tips on positive parenting. These materials can be distributed throughout communities, including locations such as schools, libraries, pediatrician’s offices, and community and state agency offices.
  • Educating school children by providing safety awareness and assertiveness training to teach them how to be aware of the dangers of abuse, and how to respond to and report abuse attempts.
  • De-stigmatizing the need for help. Communities that provide intensive support for families can erase the notion that seeking help for parenting problems is somehow indicative of a failure or weakness. Families with multiple risk factors are especially in need and should be made to feel comfortable asking for help.
Support High-Risk Families – The Secondary or Selective Approach The importance of a child’s home and family environment cannot be overestimated. Healthy families are key components of a well-balanced society, and are important for raising healthy, happy children. Given that parents are responsible for about 79% of abuse and neglect cases, one of the ways to prevent abuse from beginning is to provide support directly to a child’s family. Support for high-risk families is especially important. High-risk families can be identified by risk factors for abuse such as:
  • Low income
  • Single mother
  • Young parent(s)
  • Physical disability of the parent(s) or child
  • Mental disability of the parent(s) or child
  • Parental substance abuse
Programs targeting high-risk families can provide support in a variety of ways:
  • Pre-natal support for at-risk mothers to ensure a healthy pregnancy and birth of a healthy child to a mother prepared for the challenges of a newborn
  • Educate parents about child development and discipline, provide tools for dealing with the various stages and challenges inherent in child rearing
  • Fostering a nurturing, caring bond between a child and parent or caregiver
  • Family centers that provide access to resources and referral services
  • Providing toll free numbers for stressed parents
  • Providing easy access to family support / therapy
  • Access to substance abuse services
  • Job Search Programs to help find work for parents and caregivers, so they can support their families
  • Access to affordable childcare for parents or caregivers who need to work outside the home
  • In-home or nurse home visitation programs, which have been shown to reduce incidence of child abuse and neglect
  • Fatherhood programs to emphasize the importance of a father’s participation in raising a child
  • Programs specifically tailored to families and communities with cultural, racial and linguistic differences
Support for Families Where Abuse has Occurred – The Tertiary or Indicated Approach Families where a child has experienced some kind of abuse or neglect are especially in need of help, not only to provide support to the recovering child but also to ensure that mistreatment does not recur. In addition to the types of services and support provided for high-risk families, the following measures can also be taken:
  • Provide counseling and treatment for victims of child abuse or neglect
  • Provide counseling and treatment for parents or caregivers responsible for abuse or neglect
  • Parent support groups and mentor programs
  • Proving temporary shelter for abused or neglected children while primary caregivers are given help
A comprehensive implementation of primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention programs are recommended to prevent child abuse and maltreatment within our communities. In the unfortunate situation that a child you know has been the victim of abuse or neglect, please contact The Keane Law Firm to discuss how we can work with you to help rebuild that child’s life.
The Keane Law Firm 530 Jackson Street, 2nd Floor San Francisco, California 94133 Phone: (415) 398-2777 Toll free: (888) 592-KIDS (5437) Fax: (415) 520-2282 E-mail: [email protected]
Christopher Keane
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California Child Abuse and Child Injury Lawyer