State and local child protective services receive 3.5 million reports of child maltreatment for 6.4 million children per year.1 The estimated economic burden resulting from maltreatment of children in the U.S. is $124 billion.2 Child maltreatment is the most common harmful childhood experience causing victims significant and sustained losses to subsequent health-related quality of life including depression, substance abuse, and perpetrating violence.3 The child victims are more likely to be delinquent and arrested in adulthood than those not experiencing maltreatment.4 Child maltreatment risk factors are prior abuse of the perpetrator, lack of familial support, parental alcohol abuse, living in impoverished communities, parental stress or mental disorders, parental aggression, use of corporal punishment, and child behavioral problems. 5
Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (Authority) researchers conducted an evaluation of the Community Violence Prevention Program’s (CVPP) Parent Program. The program, which ended August 2014, sought to increase protective factors to reduce child maltreatment by employing and training nearly 1,000 Chicago-area parents to lead service projects to help other parents in 20 communities. The Center for the Study of Social Policy stated that effective parenting programs to prevent child maltreatment attempt to improve parent understanding of child development and teach child management.6 In addition, those that are parent-led promote parental resilience and inter-parent connections.
Authority researchers analyzed multiple surveys of more than 3,500 staff and participants, as well as administrative data to obtain feedback on training and general program operations.
Change in participant protective factors to reduce child maltreatment
Authority researchers measured four protective factors to reduce child maltreatment created by the Center for the Study of Social Policy. Factors are: 1) family functioning and resiliency, 2) social and concrete support, 3) nurturing and attachment, and 4) child development and knowledge of parenting.
Authority researchers administered pre- and post-tests to program participants to measure changes on scores on the protective factors before and after the program. Based on pre- and post-test scores of 300 program participants, all four protective factors had an increase in average scores. However, two protective had very small changes in the mean scores (social and concrete support; child development and knowledge of parenting); therefore, improvement could be made in those areas of program instruction, particularly as it relates to addressing the protective factors (see Figure).
All community programs were required to offer parent-led Parent Cafés, a parent engagement strategy that uses small group conversations to facilitate self-reflection, peer-to-peer learning, support, and education on protective factors to reduce child maltreatment. Surveys showed that the parent experiences of Parent Cafés were positive. Almost all participants found information provided to be helpful. The most commonly requested improvement to Parent Cafés was expanding them to more locations in the community and an increase in length and frequency. Incorporating technology and social networking education was also requested, but specifically by parents who are not experienced with the technology their children use frequently.
Most parents who participated had learned about the program from a friend, relative, or community agency. Participants rated highly program materials, resources, training, and support from their administrative teams. Almost all respondents rated the program successful and said that they used what they learned in the program in their daily lives. Most said their service projects improved the community and 80 percent thought the service projects increased protective factors of child maltreatment. Some participants suggested expanding the program and making it a year-around program.
Program staff, including Program Coordinators and Program Managers rated the program positively; sharing that the training was well-designed, trainers were knowledgeable, and protective factors were covered. Many indicated that the training programs offered opportunity for personal improvement and that there was an excitement to train and share their knowledge and experiences with parent participants.
Parent Program participants and staff highly rated the content of their training. Most program participants enjoyed sharing, communicating, and interacting with others. Many gained knowledge about parenting. Many staff reported personal improvement with the training and that they were inspired to share their experiences during the training of parent participants.
Implications for policy and practice
The Parent Program ended in August 2014. However, similar programs created in the future should work to reduce child maltreatment by increasing parents’ protective factor of social and concrete support by offering more information on resources for tangible goods and services to help families cope with stress. In addition, programs should improve the protective factor of child development and knowledge of parenting by further promoting the understanding of child development and reasonable expectations for children. An increase the number of Parent Cafés was also recommended to create space for more community discussions on these and other protective factors.
The program should target those most at-risk for maltreating children by targeting younger parents and primary caregivers. In addition, programs should work toward more father participation.
Finally, the program should collect additional data in order to have a greater understanding of who participated in the program and their program activities. Data include age of participants and their children, as well as data on community service projects and to what extent they fit into the overall program goal of violence prevention by reducing child maltreatment and promoting healthy families.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Injury prevention and control. Child Maltreatment: Definitions. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/l2oOfq. ↩
- Fang, X., Brown, D. S., Florencea, C. S., & Mercy, J. A. (2012). The economic burden of child maltreatment in the United States and implications for prevention. Child Abuse & Neglect. 36(2), 156-165. ↩
- Corso, P. S., Edwards, V. J., Fang, X., & Mercy, J. A. (2008). Health-related quality of life among adults who experienced maltreatment during childhood. American Journal of Public Health, 98(6), 1094-1100.; Sacks, V., Murphey, D., and Moor, K. (2014). Adverse childhood experiences: National and state-level prevalence. Child Trends, 1-11. ↩
- Children’s Defense Fund. (2005). The state of America’s children. Washington, DC: Author. ↩
- Black, D. A., Heyman, R. E., & Slep, A. M. S. (2001). Risk factors for child physical abuse. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 6(2), 121-188. ↩
- Center for the Study of Social Policy. (2003). Strengthening families through early care and education. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://www.cssp.org/reform/strengthening-families/resources/body/LiteratureReview.pdf ↩