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April 2009Vol. 10, No. 3An Evidence-Based Approach to Prevent Child Neglect

While neglect is the most prevalent form of child maltreatment, much of the child maltreatment research has focused on interventions for physical abuse rather than neglect. A recent article in APSAC Advisor describes the SafeCare model as an evidence-based program for preventing child neglect. With SafeCare, home-based services are delivered by paraprofessional staff trained to work with multiproblem families involved in the child welfare system or at high risk for entering the system. SafeCare's goal is to reduce maltreatment by focusing on behaviors that directly contribute to child neglect, particularly neglect of young children.

The article describes the SafeCare model as rooted in the behavior analysis field, focusing on neglectful behaviors directly, instead of on presumed underlying factors. The components of SafeCare are home safety and organizational skills, child health and nutrition management, and child behavior management skills. Home visitors conduct observations of parents' knowledge and skills for each component, and parents are trained to develop their skills across time, behaviors, and settings.

SafeCare has been used and evaluated in a number of trials across the country. As described by the article's authors, field trials in Oklahoma have yielded some valuable lessons in implementing the model.

  • Strong organizational leadership and commitment are necessary to adopt evidence-based practice, both financially and structurally.
  • Traditional training approaches tend to be ineffective and need to be reformulated.
  • The introduction of a new evidence-based model is likely to be met with mixed responses from frontline providers.

"Project SafeCare: An Evidence-Based Approach to Prevent Child Neglect,—by Debra Hecht, Jane Silovsky, Mark Chaffin, and John Lutzker, is featured in the winter 2008 issue of APSAC Advisor and may be ordered through the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) website: