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Strengthening Families Approach to Prevent Child Abuse in ID

July 21, 2010

BOISE, Idaho - It was a year ago this weekend that eight-year-old Robert Manwill was reported missing in Boise, and later turned up dead in a case investigators say was the result of long-running child abuse. The incident had the public asking what could be done to prevent abuse.

A strategy called "Strengthening Families" is being discussed by educators, mental health professionals, corrections officials and childcare providers today (WEDNESDAY). Coordinator Maureen Durning explains the approach is based on five protective factors that have been proven by researchers to reduce child abuse and neglect.

"One of the protective factors is social connections. If people have friends, they're less likely to abuse and neglect their children. The strategy then, is to facilitate friendships and mutual support."

Examples of that facilitation: field trips for children and parents, and designated areas at childcare centers for parents to relax and chat before and after dropping off kids.

Another strategy is to educate parents about the developmental stages of childhood. Durning says potty training, learning to read, and other independence-related milestones are often expected at an earlier age than physically or mentally possible for a child.

"So much abuse happens because parents don't understand developmentally what their children are able to do, and so, you know, they end up getting frustrated."

Other protective factors include making sure parents have someone to turn to in times of stress, helping parents become more resilient to better handle stressful times, and teaching children how to talk about and handle emotions.

The Idaho Children's Trust Fund is sponsoring the event, at the Bishop Tuttle House, 512 N. 8th St., Boise.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - ID