Childhood Adversity Is Public, Preventable and Solvable

Posted April 10, 2022
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A young brunette woman lies on a bed—smiling, while playing with a toddler who sits on top of her.

A new web­site and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tool kit offer research-informed guid­ance to help human ser­vices pro­fes­sion­als talk with the pub­lic, the media and pol­i­cy­mak­ers about child abuse prevention.

Released dur­ing Child Abuse Pre­ven­tion Month in April 2022, but intend­ed for use well beyond, the new Build­ing Bet­ter Child­hood resources empha­size that child­hood adver­si­ty is pub­lic, pre­ventable and solv­able. Includ­ed in the tool kit are videos, social media graph­ics and sam­ple talk­ing points.

Pre­vent Child Abuse Amer­i­ca and Social Cur­rent built the com­mu­ni­ca­tions cam­paign using rec­om­men­da­tions from Refram­ing Child­hood Adver­si­ty: Pro­mot­ing Upstream Solu­tions,” a brief pub­lished by the Frame­Works Insti­tute in 2021.

Pre­vent Child Abuse Amer­i­ca is part­nered with the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, Casey Fam­i­ly Pro­grams, and the U.S. Children’s Bureau in Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies, Safer Chil­dren, a first-of-its-kind nation­al effort work­ing across pub­lic, pri­vate and phil­an­thropic sec­tors to cre­ate con­di­tions that strength­en fam­i­lies and devel­op more just and equi­table child wel­fare sys­tems. The goal is to pro­mote fam­i­lies’ health, well-being and eco­nom­ic suc­cess by sup­port­ing alter­na­tives that pre­vent fam­i­ly separation.

Togeth­er, our orga­ni­za­tions envi­sion a future in which young peo­ple and fam­i­lies receive effec­tive, research-informed sup­port and robust oppor­tu­ni­ties in their com­mu­ni­ties that fos­ter their well-being and reduce the need for inter­ven­tions by the child wel­fare sys­tem,” says Leslie Gross, direc­tor of the Casey Foundation’s Fam­i­ly Well-Being Strat­e­gy Group. The Build­ing Bet­ter Child­hoods tools enable prac­ti­tion­ers, pro­fes­sion­als, media and the pub­lic to be part of this impor­tant conversation.”

To direct the public’s atten­tion toward pre­ven­tion and solu­tions, effec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tions focus on root caus­es of neglect and abuse, which include the eco­nom­ic inse­cu­ri­ty and racism that place over­whelm­ing pres­sures on many fam­i­lies, notes the Refram­ing Child­hood Adver­si­ty” brief. It is more com­mon, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the media, to hear lan­guage that blames par­ents or sen­sa­tion­al­izes inci­dents with­out ever iden­ti­fy­ing the sys­temic and solv­able issues that con­tribute to fam­i­ly cir­cum­stances often labeled as neglect.

Make the sto­ry one where we all have a stake and a role in out­comes that mat­ter,” the brief says. The result­ing mes­sages would res­onate with a broad range of audi­ences, aid pub­lic under­stand­ing and help build sup­port for pre­ven­tion goals, it says. When it comes to child­hood adver­si­ty — and espe­cial­ly abuse and neglect — the com­mu­ni­ca­tions chal­lenge is not to con­vince peo­ple that a prob­lem exists; it’s to con­vince them that we can do some­thing about it.”

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