Better Lives for Children Lead to a Better Climate for Business by Michael Axelrod
Author’s note: The most important reason to prevent child abuse and neglect is to improve the lives and hopes of children. But the benefits to society extend well beyond better lives for young people. The consequences of child abuse and neglect have a huge impact on the business community, both in the short term and in the long term; one more reason for making prevention a high priority. – Michael Axelrod
Prevention of child abuse and neglect advances universal business needs by:
- Managing costs and controlling expenses, especially healthcare costs
- Preparing a better educated workforce to remain competitive in the global marketplace
- Resulting in a more productive workforce to maintain/increase profitability
How and why preventing child abuse and neglect addresses these needs:
- Managing Healthcare Costs: These are a major expense of large and small businesses, and will continue to grow under the current system. Prevention can control costs: The Adverse Childhood Experience Study (see The Effects of Childhood Stress on Health Across the Lifespan) has shown that abused and neglected children are much more likely to have health problems in adulthood such as depression, substance abuse, diabetes and heart disease.
- Managing Actual and Hidden Taxes: It has been estimated that $104 billion dollars of direct and indirect costs to society result from failure to prevent child abuse and neglect. Some portion of this flows through to businesses either as direct or indirect taxes.
- Managing Recruitment/Training Costs: Creating a work environment that is family friendly will help create family environments that have a reduced likelihood of abuse. This will enable employers to attract and retain good employees, reducing the heavy costs of recruiting and training new employees.
- Better Educated Workforce – The Long Term: Children abused or neglected from birth through age five, when the brain reaches 90 percent of its growth, experience changes in the architecture and chemistry of their brains that will have an adverse impact on their ability to learn and on their memory. Thus, prevention results in a greater capacity to learn. This will lead to a better educated workforce which is critical in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.
- More Productive Workforce – The Short Term: Good prevention strategies in the community allow parents and caregivers in the workforce to avoid absenteeism to deal with, for example, the medical needs of children who have been abused or neglected. They will also reduce “presenteeism,” the lack of productivity due to employee concerns about children in at-risk situations. Productivity is inextricably linked to profitability.
What Can Business Do?
There are three important ways the business community, including both large and small businesses, can assist with prevention efforts. Specifically:
- Support Existing Infrastructure: To address these issues as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible, businesses should work with and strengthen the existing organizations at the state and local level that provide evidence based prevention programs and general public education by providing cash support and intellectual capital such as loaned executives and pro bono professional services.
- Create enabling conditions for workers to support their families and remain productive: Businesses have the opportunity to provide the means to create conditions in families and communities that increase the health and well-being of children and families. These enabling conditions can help parents who might otherwise be in stressful situations that enhance the risk of abusing their children to find information, support, and resources, and learn coping strategies that would help them to parent effectively. For example, businesses can provide onsite family paid child care and assess the supports available through their Employee Assistance Programs.
- Assist with Advocacy and Policy: Businesses can work with existing coalitions to advocate for the policies and programs, both public and private, that support the direct delivery of prevention services and creation of needed protective factors.
Prevention of child abuse and neglect is important for each individual child. But when the results of prevention are added together across society, larger sectors will improve, including the business sector in which it is clear that investment in prevention will result in a significant long term return on investment.
For more information, including a detailed question and answer session, read the full version of “Better Lives for Children Lead to a Better Climate for Business.”
- Middlebrooks JS, Audage, NC. The Effects of Childhood Stress on Health Across the Lifespan. Atlanta (GA) CDC, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2007.