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Child Abuse Prevention Month – New Strategy in Maryland

April 13, 2012

BALTIMORE, Md. - April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the strategy to keep children safe is changing in Maryland. The new approach, called Strengthening Families, recognizes that when families are healthy and happy, there's a lower risk of abuse and neglect.

Kathy Goetz Wolf, an expert on the issue, works with organizations in Maryland. She says they've found there are five protective factors, starting with helping parents become resilient in times of stress and recognizing that all parents need guidance and friends.

"Every parent needs support. How do you protect your child from you on your worst day? You know, it's very easy for us to try to say it's about 'those people.' But it's really about all of us."

Other protective factors include childhood development education, concrete support for basic needs, and teaching children how to communicate more effectively, she says.

Maryland Family Network Executive Director Margaret Williams says the goal is to make everyone who works with parents, or interacts with families, aware of the protective factors and find ways to incorporate them. That can happen at family support centers, schools, churches and childcare centers. She describes how one center in Baltimore is involving fathers in a way to forge friendships and support.

"Having, once a month, a dad's dinner. It's a potluck dad's dinner – and they come, which is a really positive, small step."

Details on the Strengthening Families approach are at strengtheningfamilies.net.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD