Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A curious proposition about child abuse reported on the Child Safety Experts blog:

Posted by: Joyce in child abuse on May 19, 2008

Child abuse prevention takes a quantum leap forward. There is an interesting theory today from a researcher in Montreal that is a big step in child abuse prevention. He thinks one of the best ways to prevent child abuse is through directly going to the community for awareness and support, not directly the parents. Combating mistreatment of children is more effective at the grassroots level, not in the family. Things like summer camps for high-risk kids are absolutely critical in combating child abuse than family education programs. Most child abuse, because of the reporting system, is pushed toward thinking the best thing to do is involve the authorities. Reporting has to happen, but what comes with that often is turning our backs on the problem. There's not much the authorities can do without support from the community. Fascinating.

My response:

Check out Prevent Child Abuse America's policy memo on the disparity between public "awareness" of child abuse and action on child abuse. Most people are aware of abuse: they just think it involves "those" people.
Not them, not their family, not their friends. Those actions have reasons, so they are understandable. He's tired. The kid's a handful. Kids need discipline.
So, if they define abuse as essentially acts committed by someone I don't know or I don't like, how are they going to have any effect on actions by those people? Not to mention the options abusers have to isolate themselves and their kids, whether it's by hiding in the spaces of the suburbs and exurbs, or in the anonymity of the city.
The reality is that most people don't view child abuse as "their" issue. If they know someone and believe that person to be a good person, acts of abuse and neglect are excused by a variety of cognitive devices.
More community awareness to support parents, and to help new parents adapt and cope with the challenges raising kids in difficult times, will help. It's necessary, but far from sufficient.
Many of those parents need education that provides them with skills and abilities, while also helping them to understand and anticipate the frustration and anger that can come with raising young children.
Home visiting and other skill enhancing interventions clearly work.
The challenge is to find sufficient funding so that we can use them.

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