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The Head of the River

 

The Head of the River

CHICAGO, IL, February 11 - There's a public health tale about two people walking-up to a river and seeing children floating by. One person says we need to pull these children out of the water, and the other says yes we do, but what we really need to do is go to the head of the river and figure out why they're falling in to begin with.

We were reminded of this tale as we read "Shame on U.S.- Failings by All Three Branches of Our Federal Government Leave Abused and Neglected Children Vulnerable to Further Harm," the recent report from the Children's Advocacy Institute.

This report is speaking truth to power, and eloquently points out what's wrong with the child welfare system at every level.

The report also points to what can be done to improve the situation as we seek to ensure great childhoods and equal opportunities for the healthy development of all children:

· We can invest in real, evidence-based prevention such as home visiting, and programs like Healthy Families America, to keep kids out of the system on the first place.

· We can put child well-being front and center on the national policy agenda.

· We can develop and enforce certain maltreatment standards among all states, and the report calls for some of that, particularly in defining maltreatment.

We can go to the head of the river, but we must also acknowledge, that the report is dangerously silent on primary prevention.

You could argue that this is not the intended topic of the report, that the report is intended as a call to action to the public agencies who serve children and families. But prevention is our mission at Prevent Child Abuse America, we want to prevent child abuse and neglect before it ever occurs, and the responsibility for doing so goes well beyond public agencies alone.

The report also points out the inconsistencies in accounting for the children known to the child welfare systems; a topic we write about every year when the annual federal report on Child Maltreatment is released. The lack of uniform definitions is important, because it prohibits

maltreatment trend analysis even in the same state and does not allow for a true assessment of the issue nationally. It also places the ordinary citizen in a state of confusion because of inconsistent understanding as to whether maltreatment is increasing or decreasing.

We advocate for the development of a comprehensive measure of how well public agencies promote child well-being; a definition and accompanying benchmarks that go beyond child protective services that serves kids whose well-being already has been compromised. Public health, education, law enforcement, public welfare and each of us all have a role to play in overall child well-being, not just child protective services.

Our 2012 study on the economic impact of child abuse and neglect shows that the U.S. spends $80 billion each year on services focused on everything from mental health to juvenile justice; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that each victim of child abuse will cost the nation approximately $210,000 over the course of their lifetime. Prevention is the right thing to do and it offers a strong return on the investment

It's time we go to the head of the river, and we hope you will join us by:

· Learning more about how we can prevent child abuse and neglect before it ever occurs.

· Volunteering at local child and family-serving agencies, such as those in our chapter network.

· Advocating for expanded prevention strategies such as home visiting in the communities and states where you live.

If you don't know how to take these actions, please let us know, we'll be happy to help you figure it out.

"Improving the Child Protective Services system, as this report so eloquently describes, is critical and analogous to building new hospitals to fight a disease," said James M. Hmurovich, President & CEO, Prevent Child Abuse America. "We must garner the public and political will to allocate the funds it will cost to reduce the likelihood of a child needing to go to a hospital or into the child protective services system. We have the evidence-based strategies to do that, all we have to do now is demand the resources to bring them to scale."

 

 

 

 

 

Filling the Middle Ground between Parents and CPS

Filling the Middle Ground between Parents and CPS

CHICAGO, IL, February 11 – As adults we all have a responsibility to the future of our nation.  The old saying “our children are our future” provides each of us with an opportunity to both serve our nation and to serve the well-being of our nation’s children.  Ensuring their healthy development is something that should be the norm, not the exception.

The recent story about two Maryland children who were walking home, unsupervised has created a firestorm of controversy and opinion. The incident pits the roles, responsibilities and decisions of parents against those of the agencies that, by law, are required to investigate even the suspicion of child maltreatment. To us, what this story shows is that striking the balance between those two things can be difficult, but that ultimately the responsibility must rest somewhere. And we believe that it rests with each of us.

There is no question that parents ultimately have responsibility over the safety and well-being of their child. Engaged parents know their child best; they take the time to understand their child’s emotional, mental, physical and developmental maturity and they are their child’s first and most important teacher. At the same time, we must recognize that not all circumstances, parents, and situations are perfect or even equal.   

There’s also no question that government has a vested interest in the health and well-being of children as well. Child welfare organizations must follow the law of their states as it relates to child abuse and neglect, and these laws typically reflect community standards overall. We are grateful that such dedicated workers like child protective service workers and police officers have committed their lives to the well-being of children and families in general. But families and government are not the only ones responsible for the wellbeing of children.

And this is where the “each of us” part comes in. This incident should be seen as an opportunity to have both parents and government contribute to a shared vision; a vision for the healthy development of all children, regardless of where they live, who they are, or from what cultural-socio-economic group they are a member. Organizations like the Child Welfare League of America are advancing this shared vision through The National Blueprint for Excellence in Child Welfare. The rest of us can help to normalize that.

Those who cite statistics indicating that the rates of children being abducted by strangers are low are correct – about 3% of all abductions, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children - just as those who say a child has a greater chance of injury from a trip in the car than a trip to the park are correct. Indeed, we would argue that it should be normal for children to be able to walk home from the park without incident, but it should be just as normal for adults along the way to look out for those children. But both points, while true, miss the larger issue:  our collective responsibility to children.

So instead of arguing which law or whose rights take precedent, we should agree that the ultimate goal is to create great childhoods and safe stable environments for all children.  We must have an open and honest conversation as to how best we can together share this responsibility to make our communities places where children and families are supported and normalize the idea that we all play a role in the lives of children. From urban planners who work to put parks within neighborhoods, to home visitors from services like Healthy Families America to public policymakers, corporate business people and religious leaders, we all have a role to play. If we want to strike the best balance between parental parenting and government involvement, then we need to truly balance it: a two legged stool will fall, but three will stand strong. Communities must be that third leg.

 

(This is a joint statement between James Hmurovich, President and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America, Pat Cronin, Executive Director of The Family Tree Maryland, and Christine James-Brown, President and CEO of the Child Welfare League of America)

Prevent Child Abuse America and Chartwells K12 Team to Deliver Healthy Meals and Healthy Social Interactions in the Lunchroom

 

Prevent Child Abuse America and Chartwells K12 Team to Deliver Healthy Meals and Healthy Social Interactions in the Lunchroom

Anti-bullying initiative focuses on the prevention of peer abuse and the promotion of positive social development

CHICAGO, IL, December 11 – Prevent Child Abuse America and Chartwells K12 are teaming up to prevent bullying where it often takes place: the lunchroom. The partnership will deliver healthy messages to students alongside the healthy food choices Chartwells serves in 3,800 schools nationwide as part of a peer abuse (commonly known as bullying) prevention campaign. The campaign supports efforts to positively change youth behaviors in light of the more than 70 percent of students who report witnessing bullying on a monthly basis.*

As part of the partnership, Chartwells team members will receive targeted training to help them recognize bullying behavior and appropriately respond. Training for leadership will also be provided regarding the impact of peer abuse in schools.

"We applaud Chartwells' interest in extending beyond nurturing appetites to also encourage change in youth behaviors, and by teaming up with Chartwells, we have the opportunity to do both," said James Hmurovich, President & CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America. "By including abuse prevention messages with these meals, in addition to working with the food service professionals, we have a real chance to make a positive impact. We're delighted about the possibilities that this partnership with Chartwells presents."

As part of the Chartwells' "eat. learn. live." initiative, the school dining service believes that by providing students with fresh and nutritious meals, it can improve the well-being of the students it serves, build sharp minds and strong bodies, and enrich the lives of students and communities in which they live. Because of its work within school cafés, Chartwells has a unique opportunity to make a difference.

"Our number one priority is to nourish the students, to help them make smart choices about food, and also about living healthy, happy lives," said Rhonna Cass, President of Chartwells. "Our partnership with Prevent Child Abuse America is an important extension of our 'eat. learn. live.' promise and will help Chartwells further its goal to improve the well-being of our students and communities."

Research suggests that training Chartwells staff to create a positive cafeteria climate and support students' social emotional learning skills is associated with increases in pro-social behavior and academic achievement and decreases in student conduct problems and distress. In addition to working together on messaging and training, Chartwells will participate in Prevent Child Abuse America's signature spring campaign, Pinwheels for Prevention®, a national initiative customized for local communities that uses symbolic pinwheels to promote healthy, full lives for children.

"Studies show nearly one in three students in grades 6 through 12 experience bullying," said Hmurovich**. "Chartwells is a natural fit to help us spread the message that all people deserve respect, and we believe it is essential to equip food service professionals with education and training to prevent peer abuse before it ever begins."

 

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