A New Way of Thinking about Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention

Article excerpt

No issue is riper for change than the prevention of child abuse and neglect. The path to effective policy change involves a 180-degree shift in thinking, from policies that deal with abuse and neglect after they take place to policies that focus on preventing their occurrence. For our nation to embrace child abuse and neglect prevention in a more effective and meaningful manner, six steps must be taken.

Step One: Help the public recognize and understand the connection between child abuse and neglect and other social ills.

The public recognizes that child abuse and neglect should be prevented, but there is not a consistent understanding of child abuse and neglect prevention. Clarity in message is critical to ensure that we focus on the same issue consistently so we as a nation can respond effectively to the needs of children and families before abuse or neglect ever happens.

Step Two: Establish a national child abuse and neglect prevention policy.

Our national policy must be guided by a belief that child abuse and neglect are not only a problem but can be prevented. A prevention strategy may be actualized through individual acts of kindness to neighbors and strangers, but sustainable change cannot occur until there is a national policy and commitment to prevent child abuse and neglect. It must be the responsibility of public officials and communities to create a norm of supporting children and families.

Step Three: Analyze existing funding sources and develop fiscal policies to support activities that prevent child abuse and neglect.

To implement a national child abuse and neglect prevention policy, it is essential that funding streams be assessed and then realigned. In local implementation activities, policy and funding decisions would be governed by the national policy so financing decisions are made that:1) promote the national policy, and 2) are accompanied by clearly identified, measurable and results-oriented strategies.

Step Four: Cultivate multiple and diverse prevention champions to rally the public support necessary to change policies to prevent child abuse and neglect.

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The president of the United States and state and local government leaders should be the leading champions of children. These champions must identify other leaders who can promote the implementation and sustainability of the national policy to prevent child abuse and neglect. Prevention champions can be found in "children's cabinets" or legislative caucuses that are bi-cameral and bi-partisan.

Step Five: Identify and strengthen governmental planning and quality assurance activities that support a national policy on child abuse and neglect prevention.

Many existing government efforts that benefit children can be used to promote and support a clearly stated national policy to prevent child abuse and neglect. …