When it comes to preventing child abuse, there are a few programs that have been proven effective by rigorous research, among them home visitation, out of school and community based programming – focused on strengthening the family, building core values and confidence and teaching critical skills.
At Family & Children’s Place, the Louisville area’s leading agency working with injured and broken children, our HANDS and Family & School Services (FSS) programs, and PAL Coalition initiative deliver effective, data-proven results in all three areas.
– HANDS is a voluntary in-home visitation program for new and expectant parents. Family Visitation Workers meet with parents, often before birth then up to two years after birth to share resources, tools and lessons to give the baby the healthiest and safest start possible.
– FSS, built on evidence-based practices, provides out of school programs that improve children’s school behavior, reduce emotional problems at home and school, and strengthen parent-child bonding. The results are less family conflict, better school performance, better relationships between children and parents and their peers.
– The PAL Coalition is a community based collaborative coalition working in Park Hill, Algonquin and Old Louisville to reduce substance abuse by young people and to strengthen community bonds and relationships.
All three show positive and significant impact. For example, HomVEE, the Home Visiting Evidence of Effectiveness program, reports HANDS shows demonstrable outcomes in child health, family economic self-sufficiency, maternal health and reducing child maltreatment. For FSS, in the last year, 83 percent of participating students improved reading, math or science scores and significantly reduced absenteeism, and in PAL-served communities, the percentage of students reporting they use alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana has decreased annually since the start of the program.
Working in the community for nearly 135 years, one thing is clear to us – too often, intervention occurs only after abuse is reported. That’s why we emphasize preventive programs – to get ahead of child abuse and maltreatment, investing staff, funds and energy to stop abuse before it occurs.
And we know prevention works – by our own metrics and through studies by agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control, federal Health Education and Welfare and state child protective agencies.
Our programs address another critical point – we address the issues early on, being present to assist young people, many who may have experienced abuse themselves or witnessed domestic and family violence, to help them manage and navigate the trauma. And we give new parents support during a very stressful time to help them cope and ensure healthy development for the baby.
Prevention works. It can be as simple as educating yourself and others, supporting children and parents through programs such as HANDS, FSS or PAL, or other after-school activities like parent education classes, mentoring programs and supporting community building.
You can encourage community leaders to support children and families, and ask employers to provide family-friendly work environments. You also can encourage local and national lawmakers to support legislation to better protect children and improve their lives.
In the end, we all want the same thing – to keep children safe from harm.