In focusing on trauma, we lose sight of programs that can prevent child abuse

I was happy to see, in your article on the rate of child abuse in Massachusetts (“Child abuse totals high in Mass.,” Page A1, Feb. 9), mention of child-abuse prevention programs. These programs are too often overlooked when we focus all of our attention on after-the-fact intervention programs, including those run by the Department of Children and Families.

There are effective family-support programs aimed at preventing child abuse and neglect that are currently serving families across Massachusetts, including Family Centers, where all families in a community can go to get support, and Healthy Families Massachusetts, a home-based family support and coaching program for first-time parents under the age of 21.

We know these programs work to keep families stable and kids safe. In fact, a randomized controlled trial evaluation of Healthy Families Massachusetts shows that the program reduces the use of corporal punishment; reduces risky behavior, including use of alcohol and drugs; and increases factors for family self-sufficiency.

Sadly, child-abuse PREVENTION programs, despite scientific evidence of their effectiveness, do not get the resources, support, or attention they need to reach more families before the trauma of child abuse occurs.

Suzin Bartley
Executive director
The Children’s Trust