Chicago—Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA America), the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization dedicated to the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect, announced today the award of a three-year $1.05 million CDC grant to examine the preventive effects of key public policy strategies, such as paid family leave and child care provisions, on rates of child abuse and neglect and intimate partner violence (IPV).
Violence against children and youth, including child maltreatment and exposure to IPV, is common in communities across the United States and internationally. A review of population-based surveys worldwide in 2016 estimated that approximately one billion children—around half of all children worldwide—experience direct violence annually. Additionally, a 2019 study found a significant amount of overlap in violence in the United States, with 16% of children having experienced four or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including child maltreatment and IPV.
“A successful public health approach to the prevention of child maltreatment and IPV prioritizes strategies that can have the greatest impact on the most people,” explained Dr. Melissa Merrick, president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America and co-principal investigator of the grant. “Through effective public policy, we can create the conditions for health, well-being, and prosperity for children and families and can prevent violence in the home before it occurs.”
Research shows that children who experience violence are at increased risk for negative outcomes across the course of their lives, including problems with mental and physical health, delinquency and crime, and future economic opportunity. It is estimated that the victims of child abuse and neglect, from a single year, will incur lifetime costs of nearly $2 trillion to remediate the consequences of the abuse.
Numerous studies also document the association between indicators of financial hardship and child maltreatment. Policies, including paid family leave and early child care provisions, that work to improve financial hardships of families immediately after the birth of a child and aid in securing safe, consistent child care, may help families remain in the labor force, increase wages, decrease family and interpersonal stress, and, therefore, decrease child maltreatment and IPV exposure.
“We are excited for the opportunity to build the evidence around policy strategies to prevent family violence. The findings of our work will be critical in current and future policy discussions for how to best support families by reducing parental stress; ensuring safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments for children; and keeping families gainfully employed while caring for their children,” stated Dr. Bart Klika, PCA America’s Chief Research and Strategy Officer and co-principal investigator of the grant.
Additionally, the grant will explore whether the effects of these policies are similar across key populations. “Well-intentioned policies can have unintended consequences, potentially perpetuating inequalities,” continued Dr. Merrick. “If our goal is to create more equitable outcomes for children and families, we must understand for whom and under what conditions these policies are working.”
Over the next three years, PCA America with work with research collaborators from across the country, several of whom were recipients of the Doris Duke Fellowship for the Promotion of Child Well-Being, to carry out the work of the grant. “Doris Duke Fellows are providing key leadership to the field through their research and practice, and we are honored to have a number of them on our research team,” said Dr. Klika, who himself was in the inaugural cohort of Doris Duke Fellows, in 2011.
About Prevent Child Abuse America
Prevent Child Abuse America is a leading champion for all children in the United States. Founded in 1972, we are the nation’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect, working to actively prevent all forms of child abuse and neglect before they occur and helping children grow up to be productive, contributing members of their communities and society. Our success is founded on a nationwide network of state chapters and nearly 600 Healthy Families America home visiting sites, which directly provide parents and caregivers a wide variety of services and resources. Our comprehensive approach is informed by science—we translate and disseminate innovative research to promote proven solutions that our vast network then puts into action. And we raise public awareness and advocate for family friendly policies at the national, state, and local levels to support transformative programs and promote the conditions and contexts that help children, families, and communities across the country thrive.