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Explore how the same skills public health professionals use in their everyday work can help public health initiatives successfully connect with local businesses.

Understanding Child Abuse & Neglect

Some businesses may have more familiarity with public health and, specifically, the issue of child abuse and neglect. Others may not yet understand the impact of child abuse and neglect on their business, community, and society. And they may not be aware that providing safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for both children and adults is one of the best ways to help prevent child abuse and neglect.

Child Abuse & Neglect

Childhood experiences, both positive and negative, have a tremendous impact on the development of children’s brains and their bodies. Children who are abused or neglected are more likely as adolescents and adults to engage in risky health behaviors and even develop heart disease, cancer, depression, and other chronic conditions. Other Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs include witnessing partner violence or living with an adult with substance abuse or mental health problems. ACEs also impact the ability of a child, or adult, to learn and reach their full potential. As the number of ACEs increases, so does the risk for negative outcomes which is why it is important to create safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for children at home, at work, and in the community.

Many factors can protect or buffer children from being abused or neglected. Supportive family environments and social networks consistently emerge as protective factors. Parental employment, adequate housing, and access to health care and social services may serve to protect against child abuse and neglect. Businesses and the larger community can help foster many of these protective factors and, in turn, youth and families' future health, education, and work readiness and success. For businesses, the work environment created for employees is crucial. Most employees work hard to have success at work and home and balancing the needs of both can be challenging. Fostering an environment where employees can have a safe outlet for discussing stress in the workplace or issues at home can help alleviate distress and contribute to better outcomes at work and home. Providing employees with mentors or offering Employee Assistance Programs can help build positive workplace relationships and decrease workplace or home stress.

Primary Prevention

Child abuse and neglect can be prevented. Primary prevention approaches take place before violence occurs and may prevent it from ever occurring. Prevention strategies that work include strengthening economic supports to families; changing social norms to support parents and positive parenting; providing quality care and education early in life; and enhancing parenting skills to promote healthy child development. These approaches often result in cost savings for communities because they cost less than interventions over time to address the consequences of child abuse and neglect. For additional details on prevention strategies and approaches see Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect: A Technical Package for Policy, Norm, and Programmatic Activities.

Businesses can focus on primary prevention of child abuse and neglect by creating positive and supportive environments for all employees. Offering paid family leave for all employees is an option that can allow new parents the opportunity to experience early bonding with their child, provide employees the ability to care for a sick child, or take vacation to get re-energized and rested. Paid leave can reduce the risk factors for child abuse and neglect, such as parental stress. Another option is to provide access to high quality child care and back up care (on site at your place of business) or through subsidizing the cost of child care. Including your employee’s children through company social events like “bring your child to work day” or hosting a family BBQ are all ways to create family-friendly environments for your employees. For more ideas, see Boost Your Competitive Edge: Actions for a Healthy Productive Workforce.

Safe, Stable, Nurturing Relationships & Environments for All Children

Child abuse and neglect can be prevented through safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments. Building a strong foundation of healthy relationships and environments can help children thrive and reach their full potential. When parents have healthy relationships and environments that they work and live in, they are better able to provide similar supports to their children.

Employees are a company’s greatest asset. From managers to front-line staff, many employees of a business are striving to find a balance between work and home. To help employees create safe, stable, and nurturing home environments for their children, businesses can provide flexible and consistent work schedules, and options to take time off for family needs or emergency events that may occur. Offering flexible work schedules and teleworking arrangements, when possible, can help employees balance their responsibilities at work and at home. Providing these working arrangements, allows parents the opportunity to attend events, such as parent-teacher conferences or school activities, and the option to take time off when needed to fulfill other family obligations. Flexible and consistent schedules are associated with lower rates of depression and stress, both which are risk factors for child abuse and neglect.

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