Prevention is only solution we can afford

by Cathy Brown
Prevent Child Abuse Arizona Board of Directors vice chair

Child abuse is not a pleasant topic of conversation. For most people, the subject can bring up a mix of anger, bewilderment, and hopelessness.

The current reality in Arizona can fuel these negative emotions. There are now almost 19,000 children in out-of-home care. Every month, the Department of Child Safety removes around 1,000 children from home situations determined to be unsafe, and infants younger than 1 year are removed from their parents at three times the rate of all other children ages 1-18 in Arizona.

The good news is that child abuse is largely preventable, and we know what works to prevent it.

How do we reduce child abuse and neglect?

Through evidence-based programs that work to prevent abuse and neglect. These programs teach parents how to effectively cope with stress, increase their social connections, offer concrete support in times of need and empower parents with parenting tools and information. With more evidence-based prevention programs, our state saves money by not having children enter the foster care system in the first place.

A shining example of such a program is Healthy Families, an early childhood home-visiting program in which families receive regular visits from a parent mentor, who provides parenting education, refers them to community resources and connects them to other families. Healthy Families is proven to reduce child maltreatment, increasing utilization of prenatal care, improving parent-child interactions, and promoting children’s school readiness.

Through training, parent education and advocating for evidence-based programs such as Healthy Families, Prevent Child Abuse Arizona is shifting the conversation about child maltreatment so prevention is the priority. We know if Arizona invests adequately in prevention, the time, energy and finances our state is pouring into intervention will be drastically reduced.

What can you do to help?

Prevention is the only solution we can afford. There is a shift in how federal funds are spent and could make a difference. Congress needs to pass Family First Prevention Services Act (Senate Bill 3065). I urge readers to ask Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake to vote for the Family First Prevention Services Act. Please take a minute and call them at 202-224-2235 and 202-224-4521, respectively.

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