What is Prevention?

"A comprehensive approach to the prevention of child abuse consists of community programs that are targeted to different populations and reflect phases of the family life cycle. To cope successfully with their roles in the family, both adults and children require certain supports, training, and information."

Why Prevention Matters

While there are methods of intervention and treatment for child abuse, neglect and household trauma, the best chance for a child is to prevent abuse and neglect before it starts.

Children who experience abuse, neglect or household dysfunction are at greater risk for poor outcomes throughout their lives, including emotional, cognitive, physical or behavioral challenges. A safe, stable and nurturing environment is critical to a child’s development. Children who grow up in those environments are more likely to become responsible, productive members of society.

Research has found that successful child abuse prevention must reduce risk factors and promote protective factors.

Protective factors include:

Nurturing and attachment

Developing a close bond helps parents relate, respond and communicate with their children;

Parenting and child development knowledge

Understanding child development can be calming for parents and help them respond appropriately to a child’s behavior;



Recognizing the signs of stress and enhancing problem-solving skills can improve parents’ capacity to cope


Social connections

Identifying a network of family, friends and neighbors provides parents support in times of need; 


Concrete supports

Offering parents access to financial, housing, and medical support, along with other resources to help parents meet their basic needs and focus on their role as parents

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released, Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect: A Technical Package for Policy, Norm and Programmatic Activities, which suggests several strategies and approaches needed to prevent child maltreatment.

Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect



Strengthen economic supports to families

  • Strengthening household financial security

  • Family-friendly work policies

Potential Outcomes:

Improvements in children’s health, development and health insurance coverage

Reductions in physical abuse and neglect of children

Reductions in maternal depression and parental stress

Reductions in adolescent risky health behaviors

Reductions in chronic disease among adults and leading causes of death



Change social norms to support parents and positive parenting

  • Public engagement and education campaigns

  • Legislative approaches to reduce corporal punishment

Potential Outcomes:

Increase in public support for children- and family-friendly polices

Reduction in reported use of corporal punishment

Reduction in beliefs that getting help for parenting is bad

Increase in seeking help for parenting

Increase in public awareness of factors that can inhibit or promote healthy child development



Provide quality care and education early in life

  • Preschool enrichment with family engagement

  • Improved quality of child care through licensing and accreditation

Potential Outcomes:

Reduced encounters with child welfare services; lower rates of out-of-home placement

Reduced physical and sexual violence against children

Higher rates of high school completion, college attendance and more years of completed education, lower drop-out rates

Lower rates of juvenile arrests, felony arrests and incarceration  

Higher rates of full-time employment



Enhance parenting skills to promote healthy child development

  • Early childhood home visitation

  • Parenting skill and family relationship approaches

Potential Outcomes:

Reduction in child abuse and neglect perpetration

Reductions in risk factors for child abuse and neglect (e.g. parental substance use, criminal involvement, child behavioral problems)

Fewer emergency room visits and hospital stays

Reductions in use of welfare

Reductions in criminal behavior

Reductions in youth substance use and arrests



Intervene to lessen harms and prevent future risk

  • Enhanced primary care

  • Behavioral parent training programs

  • Treatment to lessen harms of abuse and neglect exposure

  • Treatment to prevent problem behavior and later involvement in violence​

Potential Outcomes:

Fewer delayed immunizations

Reductions in abuse and neglect perpetration

Reductions in short- and long-term trauma-related symptoms of the child

Reductions in parental depression, emotional distress and substance abuse

Decreased number of and time spent in out-of-home placements

Reductions in re-offending