We agree with the Dec. 6 Star-Telegram editorial (“Texas should focus sooner on preventing child abuse”) and its challenge to our state. Resources must focus on evidence-based intervention strategies and aggregating sound data.
But the buck doesn’t stop there. Enhancing safety and resilience for at-risk children crosses many disciplines, including medicine, public health, education, childcare, law enforcement, child protection and foster and adoptive families.
The best prevention starts with aligning resources, coordinating efforts and engineering a safe and healthy environment to strengthen families and communities at risk.
Vulnerable children require a deep investment, and police, hospitals, schools, foundations and social service agencies are already at work:
▪ Early learning alliance — Fifty nonprofit, educational, health, municipal and foundation partners joined forces to invest in evidence-based, high-quality early learning programs and transformational family engagement strategies. This spring, Community Foundation of North Texas and Children at Risk will issue a report highlighting the health, safety, economic and educational status of our children.
▪ Center for Prevention of Child Maltreatment — The center, led by Cook Children’s, educates first responders and medical providers to identify abused children before serious or fatal abuse takes place. In order to reach those families most at risk, Buxton & Co. is helping Cook Children’s gather and analyze community data to help design and deliver child abuse prevention messages and services. The data will also be used to recruit foster and adoptive families.
▪ Foster Care Redesign — ACH Child and Family Services is implementing an ambitious redesign of foster care in a seven-county region to improve the safety of our most vulnerable children. ACH is standardizing data across 44 providers, as well as conducting risk assessments, tailoring development plans and providing respite care.
▪ Safe Babies Tarrant County — ACH and First Three Years are developing the first Safe Babies Court in Texas, where foster and at-risk families will work together to reunite children with their mothers.
▪ Education and counseling — Lena Pope’s counseling services provide a continuum of care from prevention to early intervention, with the goal of preserving the family. The Parenting Center offers two evidence-based parenting programs, Nurturing Parenting and Triple P Parenting. Catholic Charities’ Families First provides free assessment, education and support. TCU’s Child Development Center provides trauma-informed services for foster and adoptive parents. Mental Health Connection works to build mental health services across the county.
▪ Domestic violence — One Safe Place offers a wide range of services to families experiencing domestic violence. The Women’s Center provides rape crisis, victim services and violence prevention education. Homeless shelters act as temporary homes to families displaced by violence and abuse, including Presbyterian Night Shelter, Union Gospel Mission and Safe Haven.
▪ Training and Assistance — Alliance for Children and Cook Children’s offer Stewards of Children, which teaches adults to prevent sexual abuse and improve response if a child tells someone they have been abused. Tarrant Area Food Bank provides food to hungry children and families. The Center for Transforming Lives offers housing services, childcare and financial empowerment programs to families in poverty.
Each of these organizations and coalitions gives vital support to children and families at risk. Bottom line: Invest in our children today, and we’ll all reap the benefits for years to come.
Dyann Daley, M.D., is executive director of the Center for Prevention of Child Maltreatment at Cook Children’s. Nancy E. Jones is president of the Community Foundation of North Texas.