The federal government is funding five locally conceived demonstration projects across the United States aimed at decreasing death and serious injury resulting from child abuse and neglect. This week, the plans for those test sites were revealed, with several focused on promoting safe sleep for infants or community collaborations on prevention.
Over the next three years, five sites will each get $250,000 a year as part of the U.S. Justice Department-funded Child Safety Forward national demonstration initiative, which is administered by the Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime. The sites are Cook County Health in Illinois; the Indiana Department of Health; the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut; and the California Child Abuse Prevention Council in Sacramento County.
The grantees will receive technical assistance from a team led by the Within Our Reach program at the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities.
Although the approach at each site will vary, in every case the local program was developed after a review of at least five years of fatality data to identify children most at risk. With that in hand, the sites looked for signs of weakness in the child protection system and tried to come up with a plan to improve services and response.
Multiple community stakeholders worked together to ensure their projects would address issues of equity and diversity. All the grantees are required to execute plans for long-term success.
“We know from the work of the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities that child abuse is not inevitable,” said Stacy Phillips, a program specialist with the Office of Victims of Crime. “We also know that child protection agencies cannot do this work alone. Through this initiative we hope to examine what works and help build a knowledge base about the impact of a multidisciplinary approach to child and family well-being that engages a broad range of stakeholder working jointly to strengthen families and ensure the well-being of all children.”
According to a January report on the federal Child Welfare Information Gateway, about 1,809 U.S. children died of abuse or neglect in 2019, the most recent year for which federal data is available. A recent analysis found that more than three-fourths of children who died from maltreatment were younger than 4 years old, and nearly half didn’t live to see their first birthday. Physical abuse was reported in 46% of those cases, and neglect was reported in 73%.
Following are the basics of each site’s plan:
Cook County Health in Illinois: Community awareness programs targeting unsafe sleep practices and coping with infant crying.
Indiana Department of Health: Local safe sleep interventions.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services: Examining outcomes of current policies and practices related to families with low or moderate risk for child maltreatment to identify change recommendations, and reviewing the needs, barriers, and facilitators to safety planning among child protective services workers.
St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut: Assembling a stakeholder group of community-based organizations and community leaders and integrating them with decision-making agencies such as child protective services and law enforcement.
Sacramento County, California’s Child Abuse Prevention Council: Implementing a coordinated response model aimed at eliminating abuse and neglect deaths in the county by the year 2030.