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A message from Prevent Child Abuse NC on child separations at the US border

A message from Prevent Child Abuse NC on child separations at the US border

By: Sharon Hirsch, Prevent Child Abuse NC President & CEO Posted: September 13, 2019 This message was sent to the NC congressional delegation, urging them to take action to prevent children from being separated from their parents at the border and to keep the well being of children paramount when parents are detained for immigration violations at the border and in their communities. Neuroscience makes it clear that childhood experiences lay the foundation for the quality of brain development, health and prosperity into adulthood.  Children who grow up in safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments have the best opportunity to become educated, productive, healthy and engaged citizens into adulthood. The most important relationships children have are with their parents.  When parent-child attachment is disrupted, it is extremely traumatic, having a negative impact on brain development.  The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, conducted more than 20 years ago by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, made it clear that separation from parents – by divorce, parental incarceration, death, foster care or any other reason – is one of the most traumatic experiences a child can endure. It’s not only challenging emotionally, it creates Toxic Stress which changes the way the child’s brain develops and negatively impacts the immune system. Children who experience trauma hyper-develop their fight, freeze or flight instincts and under-develop the executive functioning portion of their brains necessary for learning, decision-making and relationship building. We can see this clearly in brain scans of children who have experienced this type of trauma compared to those who have not. The legacy of inadequate childhood attachment poses a considerable burden for the individuals themselves, for society, and for public services. It is a key factor in intergenerational parenting difficulties, and predisposes children to substance abuse, temper problems, homelessness, promiscuity, early pregnancy, and criminality.  People who have experienced such extreme trauma are more likely to have behavior problems in school, become depressed, attempt suicide, develop diseases like heart disease and lung cancer, and are more likely to have difficulty in relationships. In addition, the downstream consequences of toxic stress costs ALL of us an enormous amount of money – in NC alone, we spend $2 billion every year in health, social services, criminal justice, remedial education and lost worker productivity as a result of child abuse and neglect.  This is preventable when we invest in making sure all children grow up in safe, stable, nurturing environments.  It’s good policy, it’s good medicine, and it is good for our wallets. We know more than ever before about what helps children and adults overcome tough times. It’s all about the healing power of relationships. Science has revealed that relationships help build healthy brains, families and communities. We must assure that children who come into custody of our government are cared for with an understanding of this science. This is why we are urging you to do everything in your power to take action to prevent children from being separated from their parents at the border and to keep the well being of children paramount when parents are detained for immigration violations at the border and in their communities. If children have to be separated from families, the policy priority must be placed on the well-being of children and assuring the conditions in which they are detained are safe, nurturing and staffed by personnel who use trauma-informed practice to care for the children in their custody. We are not expert in immigration policy, but we are leading NC in protecting all children from emotional, physical and sexual abuse within our communities and families. We urge you to take action to ensure children’s well being is the top priority when their parents are detained, that trauma-informed practice be required in facilities that house children separated from their parents and that every effort is made to prevent children from being separated from their families. We are ready to provide guidance and support as you work to achieve this…

Explore Our New Website Design and Features

Explore Our New Website Design and Features

We are thrilled to announce the launch of our new website! After 10+ months of hard work through one of our busiest years, we’re pleased to officially share the new features of our freshly-designed website, with help from our friends at Big Boom Design.

Creating a Child Welfare System from Scratch: Lessons for Uzbekistan

Creating a Child Welfare System from Scratch: Lessons for Uzbekistan

By: Sharon Hirsch, Prevent Child Abuse NC President & CEO  Date Posted: June 13, 2019I recently spoke to a delegation from Uzbekistan who came to North Carolina to talk about creating a child welfare system for their country. My role was to share my perspective on ways to design a child welfare system from the start with a focus on prevention. It was an exciting opportunity to think about designing a system that begins with the end in mind and is based on the latest science about what works. All systems are designed to get the results they achieve. I encouraged them to NOT replicate our system.Our system has focused so narrowly on protection – we call it “child protective services” – that it has done unintentional harm by removing so many children from their parents and placed them in foster care or group homes. Removing a child from their parents is one of the most traumatic adverse childhood experiences – and without buffering, can result in serious physical and mental health problems in adulthood that impact educational attainment and workplace productivity. Yet, our system in the U.S. often emphasizes removing children from their parents instead of supporting, educating and building the capabilities of parents.A recent study by Alia Innovations and Ecotone on the social return on investment in foster care came to a stunning conclusion: for every $1 invested in one year of foster care, the return on investment was -$3.64. For a more typical scenario with a child in foster care for 4 years, the return was -$9.55. So, in addition to the costs of case workers, foster placements and therapeutic interventions, the costs to the child and to the public in reduced well-being are terrible. We could do much better with a focus on the growing knowledge of brain development, adverse childhood experiences and evidence-based programs.So, what did I recommend?I recommended designing a system that creates safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for children by building Protective Factors. Dr. Jack Shonkoff at the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University recommends three design principles for an effective system to support positive outcomes for children and families:Build responsive relationshipsReduce sources of stressStrengthen core life skillsThese design principles are consistent with the Protective Factors. I also focused on the interconnected nature of systems design that focuses not only on programs and services for families, but policy and public engagement. Families live in communities, so building a sense of community and support for each other is critical to building the safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments that families need for children to grow up healthy, safe and thriving. Policies that support and strengthen families’ ability to be economically secure are also key. My top recommendations were:Educate the public about investing in early childhood based on the science of neurobiology and ACES.Create a multi-tiered universal home visiting system and a continuum of parenting education supports.Provide access to quality early childhood education for children – and knowledge of child development should be taught in high school so that parents have a base of understanding.Build systems for concrete supports in times of need: affordable housing, living wage jobs, paid family leave, transportation, access to services in crisis situations such as diapers, food and shelter. This is about addressing some of the adverse community conditions and environments in which families live, particularly poverty.Invest in income supports for parents – in this country things like Paid Family Leave and the Earned Income Tax Credit are strategies that are recommended by the CDC to reduce neglect, which is much more prevalent than abuse.Be intentional about creating opportunities for families and children to build connections – social connections, connections to resources and connections to formal support systems. Everyday connections and relationships are more important than we ever believed. Science now tells us that relationships have the power to shape our brains. Relationships help us to learn better, work better, parent better. When we experience tough times, they help us heal.  With each connection, we develop a stronger, healthier community. Helping parents, community leaders and policy makers understand the power of relationships and connections for families is a key strategy to build a strong system of support for families.What do you think? Are these the right investments? Would you recommend anything else? I’d love to hear from you!…

Four Things to Expect from the #PCANCSummit

Here at Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, we’re thrilled to be a co-presenter with NC Department of Health and Human Services to host our biennial Learning and Leadership Summit: Connections Matter for Prevention in Raleigh, NC.

Some of our top reasons to attend the #PCANCSummit include: over 350 attendees, 40 educational breakout sessions, 19 exhibitors, valuable networking, and the chance to hear from nationally recognized speakers. Whether you’ve already bought your tickets or are still trying to decide if you should register, we made a list of the four things to expect from the #PCANCSummit on March 5-6, 2019 at the McKimmon Conference and Training Center.

Lordy, Prevent Child Abuse NC is 40!

Lordy, Prevent Child Abuse NC is 40!

January 23, 1979 is a big day in our history.

It’s the day the North Carolina Chapter of the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse was established. In the late 1970’s the primary goal was to raise awareness about the fact that child abuse and neglect existed – can you imagine?

Fast forward to 2019 and that organization, now Prevent Child Abuse NC (PCANC), is investing upstream in strategies that are proven to strengthen families and help keep children safe.

But what exactly is our strategy? Two words: Capacity building.