By Claire Louge, Executive Director

If you work to prevent child abuse, you’ve probably had this thought:

There’s just SO MUCH that needs to be done.

It’s true. And what’s also true is that no single one of us can do it all. Because of that, you may have also asked yourself, “How do I pick what to do so I can make the most positive impact?”

I’ve been reflecting on this question since the new year.

Child abuse prevention is a field in which there is so much to do. There are even different levels of prevention to engage in – tertiary, secondary, and primary. Tertiary prevention, or intervention, helps those who have experienced abuse build resilience to its effects. Secondary prevention targets those who have more stressors in their lives – stressors that may make it harder to provide stability and safety to children. Primary prevention is about changing the conditions that lead to family overwhelm so that abuse and neglect never happen in the first place.

What are some of those conditions? Lack of access to resources and knowledge. Isolation. Distrust of systems available to help. Social norms that promote hyper-independence and shame in asking for help. Unaddressed historical trauma. Economic instability and poverty.

That’s a lot to change, but we can do it. And there’s never been a better time to do so.

I want to eradicate child abuse, and I know you do too. Though intervention is very important, we can’t intervene our way out of child abuse. We don’t want to only manage the problem of child abuse, we want to get ahead of it so we can end it. Eradication of child abuse and neglect requires primary prevention.

This year and beyond, Prevent Child Abuse Arizona is shifting our direction even more towards primary prevention, and specifically on changing one big condition that affects child abuse and neglect: the way our society views struggling parents.

Imagine a world in which parents ask for support when they need it, and they get that help. Imagine the nurtured, safe childhoods that world would produce.

That world will be born when we agree to shift our culture from one that focuses largely on intervention and surveillance to one that focuses on supporting and strengthening families. We need to normalize that parenting is hard. We need to listen. We need to practice empathy, suspend our judgement, and partner with parents to get them what they say they need.

That world is within our reach, and it starts with speaking this vision to action. People – you and me – are the creators of culture. In 2021 and beyond, we can each be the creators of a new culture – one in which we all participate in strengthening families and supporting parents. 

P.S. Our recent acceptance to Round 2 of Thriving Families, Safer Children will help us and our partners work toward creating this world. We look forward to updating you on that work!