Leveraging Family and Community Strengths to Reduce Child Maltreatment

Published date01 November 2020
Date01 November 2020
/tmp/tmp-17UNaiUwy8ZVdy/input 978402ANN
The Annals Of The American AcademyLeveraging Family And Community Strengths
this article reviews and analyzes extant literature on
the prevention of child maltreatment. We give an over-
view of protective factors that research finds to be
efficacious in maltreatment prevention and pay partic-
ular attention to research that shows how health-based
models and community-based models can leverage
family and community strengths to that end. We go on
to offer recommendations for potential future preven-
tion programming, including an approach with
untapped potential—the Prevention Zones framework.
Finally, we discuss policy considerations and implica-
Family and
tions specific to the goal of increasing programming
and services that leverage family and community
Community Keywords: prevention; strengths-based; child mal-
Strengths to
treatment policy
Reduce Child
Maltreatment Supports for children and families in the
united States are, generally speaking, car-
ried out through community service program-
ming and through the criminal and legal
systems. Child maltreatment, though, is seen as
a criminal or legal issue and is addressed pri-
marily by the child welfare system and in the
courts (Dias, Mooren, and Kleber 2018;
Krugman 1995; Palusci 2017; u.S. Advisory
board on Child Abuse and Neglect 1991,
KeLLI N. hugheS,
1993). We know that child maltreatment is
more than the physical and mental health trau-
mas borne by individual children and families:
it is a public health problem. If society truly
wants to promote the developmental needs of
children, that goal is not likely to be achieved
through the legal or child welfare systems alone
(emery, trung, and Wu 2015; Klicka, Lee, and
Debangshu Roygardner is the director of evaluation for
mental health services at New York Foundling, an
affiliate of the Vincent J. Fontana Center for Child
Protection, and consortial faculty of psychology at the
CUNY School of Professional Studies.
Correspondence: Debangshu.Roygardner@sps.cuny.edu
DOI: 10.1177/0002716220978402
ANNALS, AAPSS, 692, November 2020 119

Lee 2018). Rather, community-based prevention strategies need to be ready and
able to respond to and alleviate family and community risk factors, as well as to
leverage and support family and community strengths and protective factors.
Recognizing the need to work toward a prevention-based strategy for at-risk
children and families, the federal government assembled the u.S. Advisory
board on Child Abuse and Neglect in 1993. According to u.S. Advisory board
member Richard Krugman (1995, 25), “caring is not enough”; and despite well-
intentioned efforts to make a difference or concern for the well-being of chil-
dren, we need system-wide, cross-disciplinary approaches. the u.S. Advisory
board outlined a multi-disciplinary community-based approach for preventing
child abuse and neglect that invokes policy, implementation, and research and
Since then, an increased understanding of primary, secondary, and tertiary
prevention has allowed for more accuracy in medical diagnosis, better treatment,
and better understanding of the epidemiology of and strategies for preventing
maltreatment (Palusci and Perfetto 2018). Despite the advances in knowledge,
only a small amount of the research on child maltreatment prevention has been
performed with sophisticated designs (u.S. Commission 2016; Levey et al. 2017).
however, the field is driven to expand the prevention research portfolio by inte-
grating clinical trials and well-evaluated multimodal interventions to progress the
level of rigorous research beyond an overabundance of correlative studies on the
issue (berthelot, Lemieux, and Maziade 2019).
In this article, we focus on child maltreatment prevention programs and
strategies that leverage family and community strengths and protective factors—
collectively referred to herein as a resilience approach. We review family-based,
health-based, and community-based prevention programs as well as discuss
overarching child maltreatment prevention strategies and frameworks. Our over-
arching goal is to examine best practices and evidence-based literature and inte-
grate the findings into a multilevel, community-based, resilience-focused
approach to child abuse prevention—one that not only alleviates risk factors, but
one that also leverages the strengths of, and promotes protective factors within,
families and communities.
to achieve this approach, we advocate adopting dual frameworks/strategies:
(1) the 1993 u.S. Advisory board on Child Abuse and Neglect’s concept for
Prevention Zones, articulated in their report Neighbors Helping Neighbors: A
New National Strategy for the Protection of Children1 and (2) the Strong and
Thriving Families Resource Guide (u.S. Children’s bureau 2019).2 the 1993 u.S.
Advisory board on Child Abuse and Neglect’s Neighbors Helping Neighbors
strategy is our preferred strategy or framework due to extensive research
Kelli N. Hughes is an attorney and serves as the program director of the American Professional
Society on the Abuse of Children’s (APSAC’s) Center for Child Policy.
Vincent J. Palusci is a professor of pediatrics at New York University Grossman School of
Medicine. He is a general and child abuse pediatrician at Bellevue Hospital in New York City
and chairs the Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital Child Protection Committee at NYU Langone

evidence to support its promise and logic model, and because it is targeted to
communities with identified risks for child maltreatment. the Strong and
Thriving Families Resource Guide, which represents a culmination of research
invoking family and community strengths and protective factors, provides practi-
cal parenting and community-based strategies, informed by decades of research,
to engage parents and communities in child abuse prevention from a primary
lens of resilience, rather than risk.
Stated another way, the 1993 report called for a new national strategy to prevent
child abuse that was neighborhood-based, and child- and family-centered, with a
focus on strengthening families and communities. Prevention Zones is meant to be
implemented in communities with identifiable risk factors. however, coupled with
the Strong and Thriving Families Resource Guide, the two frameworks collectively
espouse an approach to prevention that focuses on risk factors to identify commu-
nities where services should be allocated (secondary prevention), and a primary
prevention strategy that focuses on entire communities, with an emphasis on com-
munity strengths, allowing for a greater degree of universality.
the result of this integration holds promise as an empirically grounded, theo-
retically rich resilience approach for stakeholders wishing to implement child
maltreatment programming within family, health care, and community settings.
We hope that this discussion illustrates the richness and utility of a resilience
orientation for prevention programming and that policy-makers and practitioners
consider such robust, comprehensive strategies when setting future policy agen-
das or making practice recommendations.
First, we outline key concepts and definitions used in the article. We then
review the literature on efficacious community and family-based child maltreat-
ment prevention programs as well as prevention strategies and frameworks that
leverage community and family strengths. Finally, we draw from this literature to
recommend an approach that adopts elements of two different strategies and
frameworks for prevention—Prevention Zones and the Strong and Thriving
Families Resource Guide—and discuss why the approach of integrating these
strategies promotes child safety more comprehensively and holistically by focus-
ing intervention on promoting strengths and increasing resiliency.
Key Concepts and Definitions
Levels of prevention
Over time, multiple, sometimes contradictory, terminologies around preven-
tion have developed.3 Our discussion of community-based prevention will
employ Caplan’s terminology of primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention
because it affords an approach involving comprehensive cross-sector collabora-
tion. Achieving prevention of child maltreatment will take cross-systems collabo-
ration involving many entities, one of the most important being child protective
services (CPS) systems (Klicka, Lee, and Lee 2018).

Preventing programs/models versus strategies/frameworks
We make a distinction between child maltreatment prevention programs/
models and strategies/frameworks. A program or model is a specific intervention
designed to prevent child maltreatment. Alternatively, a child maltreatment pre-
vention strategy is a more generalized plan for preventing maltreatment.
Strategies tell more about the who, what, where, and when, while programs/
models are meant to explain the “how” (Klicka, Lee, and Lee 2018).
Risk factors for child maltreatment
Risk factors for child maltreatment are factors that are thought to increase the
probability that child maltreatment will occur. they exist at the individual, family,
and community levels, and different types of child maltreatment can have...

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