Every few seconds, a report of child maltreatment is filed in the United States, and, on average, five children die from maltreatment every day (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children and Families). Child abuse and neglect are preventable: with the right supports, families can build the foundation they need for healthy, happy lives.
By working together, child-serving professionals, families, and communities can prevent child maltreatment and promote children’s safety and wellbeing.
Trauma-Informed and Responsive Principles to Prevent Maltreatment
To mark National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Center on Child Wellbeing & Trauma wants to share how being trauma-informed and responsive (TIR) can help prevent maltreatment. Child-serving organizations and professionals can promote children’s safety and wellbeing by applying the five Guiding Principles of TIR care in their interactions with families.
For staff working directly with children and their caregivers, this can mean:
- Nurturing relationships – Build trust with the families you work with, cultivate a sense of belonging, and promote transparency in every interaction you have.
- Modeling positive social and emotional skills – Respect and engage with children and families the way you want to be respected and engaged with.
- Creating a safe environment – Establishing a safe environment helps children and caregivers feel comfortable asking for help if they need it.
Child abuse and neglect can happen to any child and in any family, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, or ethnicity. Yet, families of color are disproportionately represented in our child welfare system. Some strategies to help prevent inequities in reports of child maltreatment include:
- Being aware of our own biases and how they can impact our response to certain situations and the type of support we offer families
- Being open to diverse cultural practices to avoid making assumptions
- Engaging with families when we have concerns for the safety and wellbeing of the children we serve
Leadership Can Support Staff and Families in Maltreatment Prevention
“Prevention in Partnership” also means organizational leaders can collaborate with staff to prevent maltreatment and promote healthy, happy families. Managers, supervisors, and leaders can do so by:
- Regularly checking in with staff and offer support when needed
- Create a culture of safety and transparency by encouraging staff to practice self-care and providing regular opportunities to openly discuss experiences, challenges, and concerns
- Create systemic change with training, supportive staff supervision, and reviewing policies to align them with trauma-informed and responsive principles
Sometimes, staff’s own history of trauma may surface and potentially inhibit their ability to respond appropriately to children in their care. With guidance from the Center on Child Wellbeing & Trauma, child-serving organizations can demonstrate their understanding of how listening to the trauma experiences of others can positively impact staffs’ work satisfaction and performance.
Useful Resources to Prevent in Partnership
Identifying risk factors, employing protective measures, and raising awareness about abuse and neglect can help child-serving organizations and professionals in their efforts to prevent maltreatment and promote family wellbeing.
Here are some resources that can guide you:
- Protective Factors Conversations Guide: It’s not always easy to talk about concerns you may have about a child. Discussing protective factor can be a great way to focus on the positive things parents and caregivers want for their children and themselves.
- The Children’s Trust of Massachusetts offers a variety of learning opportunities to help child-serving professionals support families and prevent maltreatment.
- Safe Kids Thrive provides a free and short online assessment to review your organization’s policies and procedures to keep kids safe.
- Child Sexual Abuse Prevention One-Pager lays out the facts about child sexual abuse.
The Center on Child Wellbeing & Trauma provides information on trauma and healing and prevention strategies, as well as resources and training as part of its commitment to helping individuals and organizations support children. Please contact us with questions or comments.
If you have concerns about a child’s safety, you can chat, text, or call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or the Massachusetts Child-at-Risk Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-792-5200.