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April 2010Vol. 11, No. 3Promoting Optimal Development and Preventing Child Maltreatment: The QIC on Early Childhood

The National Quality Improvement Center on Early Childhood (QIC-EC) is hard at work studying how collaborative interventions increase protective factors and decrease risk factors to achieve optimal child development, increased family strengths, and decreased likelihood of child maltreatment within families of young children at high-risk for child maltreatment. The focus of the QIC-EC underscores the nation's urgent need to find innovative, effective approaches to maltreatment prevention for children 0-5. Current research indicates that children in this age group are subject to the highest rates of child maltreatment and are at the greatest risk of lifelong harm from trauma. Research also reveals that the early years of life can be a very important period for influencing a child's developmental trajectory and the parent-child relationship, including parental behavior patterns, before neglectful or abusive patterns are established.

The QIC-EC Projects
Following a year of intensive study and deliberations with a distinguished national advisory committee, it was clear that reducing maltreatment was not sufficient. Increasing family strengths and promoting optimal development are equally important to ensuring the best outcomes for very vulnerable young children.

Four research and demonstration (R&D) projects were selected from more than 40 highly competitive proposals from across the country to study effective ways to achieve these goals. The focus of the QIC-EC is primary prevention, so the R&D projects will target infants and young children who are at high risk for abuse and neglect but for whom there is no substantiated child protective services report. Children will be 0-24 months old when they are accepted into the project. The R&D projects will employ randomized control or quasi-experimental designs that implement a range of collaborative interventions with families.

The main activities of the R&D projects illustrate the range of families, communities, service systems, and interventions that will be studied over the next 3 years:  

  • Denver, CO: This project will study the impact of collaboration among Part C case managers, wraparound services, leveraging the family's natural supports, and substance abuse treatment for pregnant women.
  • Columbia, SC: Stepping Stones Triple P parent education training plus adapted Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect training for Part C early intervention coordinators will be tested for effectiveness with families of children with disabilities in 12 counties.
  • Boston, MA: Families in an isolated, high poverty urban neighborhood who seek medical services through a community health center will test a combination of Healthy Steps home visiting, legal assistance, and other family support.
  • Salem, OR: This study will measure the impact of a multifaceted neighborhood mobilization, led by residents and including businesses, faith communities, and human services on reductions in child maltreatment and promotion of optimal development.

In addition to the rigorous evaluation conducted by each individual project, the QIC-EC will also conduct a cross-site evaluation that includes both outcomes and processes.

The QIC-EC Learning Network
The QIC-EC will provide ongoing information from these creative interventions over the next 3 years via its information-sharing Learning Network. The QIC-EC's Learning Network (LN) serves as an active mechanism for exchange of information between the QIC-EC and a multidisciplinary group of organizations and individuals who share the commitment to maltreatment prevention in very young children. The QIC-EC has convened quarterly LN webinars, including:

  • Current Research on the Adult Outcomes of Child Maltreatment
  • Promoting Optimal Development in Young Children and Families Affected by Substance Abuse and/or HIV/AIDS
  • Prevention: A Dialogue between Research and Practice

Webinar slides can be downloaded from the QIC-EC website:

The QIC-EC Award
The Children's Bureau awarded a 5-year cooperative agreement in 2008 to the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) to establish the QIC-EC to promote the development, dissemination, and integration of new knowledge about maltreatment prevention among infants and young children (0-5) who are at high risk for abuse, neglect, and abandonment. CSSP's partner organizations are ZERO to THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families and the National Alliance of Children's Trust and Prevention Funds. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation provided matching funds.

For more information about the work of the QIC-EC, including detailed grantee profiles and information from previous LN webinars, visit the website:

For more information, contact:
Charlyn Harper Browne, Project Director

Contributed by Charlyn Harper Browne