We applaud Hillsborough County and Eckerd Connects for investing $3 million over the next two years to reduce the number of children removed from their families, and to help get children who are removed out of foster care faster. Thanks to the leadership of Dr. Chris Card, Chief of Community-Based Care, and Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman, fewer children will suffer the trauma of being taken from their family and put into an already overwhelmed system.
As reported in the Tampa Bay Times, other changes will likely be coming to our child welfare system. The Family First Prevention Services Act is a federal law that prioritizes keeping children out of foster care, requiring that more money be available for in-home counseling and parenting classes. However, these services would not be available for every family, but only those at-risk of having children removed. Unfortunately, that often means abuse has already occurred. While these are big steps in the right direction, even more can be done to identify and reach out to families before abuse can even begin.
Champions for Children has worked on child abuse issues for 42 years now, with an exclusive focus on prevention for almost 20. We know that the long-term impact of child abuse can be devastating. According to the Children’s Bureau, “abuse or neglect may stunt physical development of the child’s brain and lead to psychological problems, such as low self-esteem, which could later lead to high-risk behaviors, such as substance use.” We also know that being abused as a child is the single best predictor of later in life having a child that is abused.
Amy Haile, our Executive Director, uses this analogy: there are so many children in the child welfare system in Hillsborough County that the bathtub is overflowing. Instead of spending all of our time and resources cleaning up the floor and building a bigger bathtub, let’s turn off the faucet. We have to think big and bold about how to support families in developing healthy parenting practices, ones that will produce strong families and thriving children. All families need support, not just the ones someone determines are at-risk. We know how to provide that support in lots of ways to fit every family. We know that families learn best through play, with the caregiver and child together. That two-generational approach promotes attachment between the caregiver and child while also providing the parent with education about supporting brain development and positive behavior. And, because no child comes with a manual, we also offer classes for parents on a variety of topics to assist them in promoting a healthy relationship and positive behavior.
We invite you to join us in our big and bold mission to prevent child abuse! Please share this information with others so that everyone knows that we are here to help.