• April 2019
  • Vol. 20, No. 3

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Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Programs: Collaborating to Strengthen Families

Written by Julie Fliss, M.S.W., child welfare program specialist, Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Children's Bureau

When families are able to meet their basic and emotional needs and access supports within their communities, it promotes healthy child development and well-being. Families face stressors every day—including dealing with a sick child, single parenting, lacking quality child care, having unstable housing, being unemployed, and more—that challenge their ability to care for their child, making them vulnerable to child abuse and neglect. The presence of protective factors, or attributes of individuals, families, communities, or the larger society, mitigate this risk and help to safeguard child from maltreatment.

Throughout the nation, states and communities are working together with parents and community leaders to identify and implement effective services that build protective factors and prevent child abuse and neglect. This includes Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) programs, authorized by title II of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (as amended by Public Law 111-320). The purpose of the CBCAP program is to support community-based efforts to implement resources and activities that strengthen families and reduce the likelihood of child maltreatment. Examples of funded programs include family resource or support, voluntary home visiting, respite care, parent education, mutual support, and other community programs or networks of programs to support families.

CBCAP is currently the only source of federal funding for primary prevention, with $37.7 million allocated to states in fiscal year 2018. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico currently receive CBCAP funding. The governor of each state designates a lead agency to oversee the implementation of the CBCAP program. In addition, 1 percent of funding is set aside for tribal and migrant programs, of which three were funded in fiscal year 2016 for 5 years.

Given the limited funding available for prevention services, CBCAP programs build upon existing interagency collaborative efforts and seek new partnerships with other public and private organizations serving the same populations and sharing the same goals and objectives. CBCAP programs further emphasize the importance of parent leadership and the inclusion of parents as full partners in collaborative efforts. This includes strategic, long-term, and outcome-focused planning to promote systems change to enhance the well-being of families and prevent child maltreatment.

The Children's Bureau (CB) oversees the CBCAP program and identifies CBCAP lead agencies as key partners in its efforts to prioritize the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect. CB's vision is to reorient child welfare to focus on strengthening families through prevention at the community level. Because the provision of prevention services and emphasis on parent engagement are strong components of the CBCAP program, enhanced coordination between the state's child welfare agency and the CBCAP lead agency will greatly contribute to overall child welfare system improvement. Thus, CBCAP lead agencies are uniquely positioned to help make CB's vision a reality.

One example of this is Kentucky, where the CBCAP funds are used for Community Collaborations for Children (CCC), a program targeting families with children at risk for neglect. CCC is a partnership between child welfare, community-based services, schools, and parents to implement parent engagement meetings, during which participants work together with the family to identify barriers to the child's school attendance, as well as proactive strategies to address them. This initiative has proven quite effective and deferred 74.5 percent (195) of families who participated in a parent engagement meeting from being referred to the child welfare agency. As a result of the success of this collaboration, Kentucky is in the process of expanding the program to other communities.   

The development of 2020–2024 Child and Families Services Plan (CFSP) is another opportunity where CBCAP can inform state efforts to focus more on prevention. As active participants in the development of the CFSP, CBCAP lead agencies offer expertise on effective practices to strengthen families to prevent child maltreatment. This will prove valuable as states work to create a shared vision to better partner with families and support them with achieving positive outcomes.

For more information on CBCAP, including how to identify the CBCAP lead agency in your state, please visit the website for the FRIENDS National Center for CBCAP at www.FRIENDSNRC.org.

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