With our legislators back in Raleigh for the long session, it’s a great time to educate and engage our representatives in conversations about prevention – upstream investments to prevent future costs.
Our children represent about 30 percent of our current population – and are 100 percent of our future. They are our future parents, workers, and leaders, and they need safe, stable, nurturing environments that foster their healthy growth and development. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) disrupt normal child development, negatively impacting their brain architecture. Such impairment leaves children vulnerable and without a strong foundation for future growth.
Child abuse and neglect costs North Carolina $2 billion annually. These costs are large because there are life-long consequences to mental and physical health. Short-term costs include child welfare, immediate medical attention, mental health services and law enforcement services. The long-term costs include special education, early intervention, emergency housing, long-term mental and physical health care, juvenile delinquency, the adult criminal justice system and lost worker productivity.
These are big expenses in our state and county budgets that can be prevented. So what can we do? Here are the top three things you can help us to communicate to our legislators:
▪ Preventing child abuse and neglect is an issue that is nonpartisan. Encourage your legislators to work across party lines to prevent abuse from ever happening.
▪ Evidence-based and evidence-informed parenting education programs pay great dividends, particularly in the early years when children’s brains are developing the fastest. These programs include The Incredible Years, Strengthening Families, Circle of Parents, Triple P. and Nurse-Family Partnership. Ask legislators to support funding to expand these programs to strengthen parenting.
▪ There are no requirements at the local level for communities to coordinate planning for child abuse prevention. Ask legislators to support funding for local child abuse prevention plans using the Protective Factors Framework and evaluation using the indicators from Pathways to Grade Level Reading measures around family support – because we all know that what gets measured, gets done.
Educate and engage with your legislative representatives. It’s their job to listen to your priorities. Let them know investing in prevention is essential!
Sharon Hirsch of Durham is president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina.