What if society was able to stop child abuse before it started? What would the world look like? Would there be no need for the child welfare system or protection for youth. Overall, we would be out of a job. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There is hope. April is National Child Abuse Prevention month and I would like to honor the prevention model Healthy Families Florida implements throughout the state of Florida.
Healthy Families Florida is a nationally-accredited family support and coaching program that helps parents provide the safe and stable environments children need for healthy growth and development. Parents voluntarily participate in services provided in their homes. Specially-trained support workers help them improve their parenting skills and achieve goals that increase family stability and self-sufficiency. Last year, 98% of children in families served were free from abuse during services and one year following program completion. What makes this model so unique is the organization intervenes before any allegations of abuse or neglect is reported. Participants can start the program while pregnant or within the first three months of deliver. Participants are allowed to receive services until the target child is 5 years of age.
Remember my question? We can stop child abuse before it starts with the appropriate programs. If parents receive education and knowledge prior to the birth of their child, it could reduce the likelihood of abuse. Informing parents of the types of child abuse, providing coping skills during frustrating moments and encouraging skin to skin contact with father and baby can be helpful to new parents. I understand there are some situations, such as addiction that may hinder preventive services. If a Healthy Families Florida case manager is in the home, certain conversations can take place to find better care for the child, until the parents are healthy. The conversation can take place before the baby is born and child protective services may not need to be involved.
Prevention is all about thinking upstream instead of looking at the current crisis. If people are falling in a river, you don’t keep pulling people out of the river. You go upstream and find out why people are falling in the river. That’s why we need child abuse prevention. We need innovators to create strategies around why people are falling in the river. We have enough support pulling people out. Intervention and prevention work together, but it’s time to do movement building in child welfare and stop abuse from occurring. We all play a role in prevention work.