It’s often said that it’s hard to define prevention, because we can’t see what we prevent. How do you measure what didn’t happen? What does lack of child maltreatment look like?
The New Hampshire Children’s Trust, our counterpart Prevent Child Abuse Chapter in New Hampshire, found the answer when they asked families in their state what prevention looked like to them. Their answers had one simple, common thread.
What is prevention made visible?
Prevention made visible is joy.
Think about a moment of joy in your family – whomever you consider your family to be. What makes moments of joy possible? What are the ingredients that create joy?
Cookies. Just kidding. (But actually maybe it is cookies? Forgive me, I’m currently surrounded by holiday cookies, and they are definitely bringing me joy.)
But let’s get serious about joy for a moment. Joy pops up in positive, nurturing relationships. Joy happens in safety. It’s an effect of the understanding that you can weather the storms that life brings, and that people have your back. It shows up when caregivers feel confident in their parenting and give themselves grace, because perfect parenting doesn’t exist. It emerges in non-judgmental, compassionate community environments. It grows from trusting that there are people who are protecting your wellbeing in the world. It’s formed from the ability to be present in the moment. It’s the product of play, and being free to explore and create and learn. It’s born of trusting that things will be okay, even if it doesn’t feel that way all the time. It’s the goal of hope.
Joy is the presence of protective factors in a family: resilience, connections, knowledge, concrete support, and children’s social and emotional skills.
All of these things mixed together and distilled is joy. The presence of joy is the presence of prevention.
All that you do in your work, whether it’s connecting families to what they need, providing a needed support, promoting policies that benefit family wellbeing, giving professionals tools to support families, or promoting the trauma-informed approach and awareness of how past pain can influence current behavior, ultimately cultivates moments of joy.
In that work we try our best and make mistakes and try again, because we know children in Arizona deserve that we persevere.
Because they deserve joy. They deserve joy with their families. And where there is joy, that is the work of prevention made visible.