By: Kristen Federici
CCF Board of Directors
April is child abuse prevention month, and the perfect time to highlight some of the progressive legislation intended to support families that is moving through the legislature this year.
Many of the bills that the Children's Campaign Fund is supporting this year help prevent abuse and neglect, either directly or indirectly. Read the 2015 CCF Legislative Priorities.
Focus our efforts before a child is ever abused in the first place
Many people think of the sad and sometimes tragic outcomes that occur for victims of abuse and neglect when they hear those words, but much of the work that can and should be the focus of our efforts occurs before a child is ever abused in the first place.
A lot of abuse and neglect occurs because: parents were never taught how to be a good parent themselves, lack basic necessities important to caring for their children, have untreated or under treated mental health or chemical dependency issues, or lack social supports to help them deal with life stressors and provide appropriate care.
Reducing Food Insecurity and Homelessness
Food insecurity and homelessness are major stressors for parents and families.
Those stressors can lead to physical abuse, or the sheer lack of those basic necessities can result in children being neglected, despite the best intentions of their caregivers.
Breakfast After the Bell (HB 1295) would ensure that children who receive free and reduced-price lunch could also get breakfast at school, even after the first bell has rung.
Extending the time when breakfast is available both allows more access and reduces some of the stigma that might cause children to avoid eating breakfast at school. This in turn ensures that kids are getting nutritious meals at least twice a day on weekdays and increases their ability to learn and succeed in school.
The Homeless Youth Act (HB 1436 and SB 5404) shines a light on youth homelessness and is the first step in reducing the number of children who are homeless in our state.
Early Identification of Developmental Delays
By identifying children with developmental delays and autism early, parents are more likely to get prompt treatment resulting in better outcomes for their children throughout their lifetimes.
In addition, early diagnosis and treatment that is covered by insurance, particularly by Medicaid for low-income families, is likely to reduce in more education support for the families which in turn will result in fewer cases of abuse and neglect.
The Autism and Developmental Delays legislation (SB 5317) ensures Medicaid coverage for screening of infants and toddlers from 9 to 30 months of age. Children with disabilities are three times as likely to be abused as non-disabled children.
Expanding the Foster Care Safety Net
Unfortunately, some children have already been abused, and they need resources and support to help them be safe and move on to live productive lives.
The Extended Foster Care bill (SB 5740) expands on the program that allows foster youth who are working or going to school to remain in the system until they are 21 by also allowing individuals with a serious medical condition to remain in the program until 21 as well. This gives children who are medically fragile or have a disability additional time to access services and mature prior to being sent out into the world on their own.
Home Visits and Educating New Parents
In addition, both the House and Senate budgets included additional funding for home visiting programs.
These programs are designed to support new parents by providing education, modeling and support on parenting skills, social emotional development, access to health care, awareness of child development and ways to support early learning.
One model, the Nurse-Family Partnership, has been shown to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect by almost 50 percent. Investment in these programs that help parents to be the best they can be for their children before abuse ever occurs are key to the prevention of abuse and neglect.