Posted: August 28, 2020
By: Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina and Child Care Services Association 

This is the final blog of this three-part blog series. Read Part 1: What is ECE and Why Should We Invest in it? and Part 2: The ECE Role in Preventing Child Maltreatment – and Why it is Critical During the Pandemic

Early Care and Education (ECE) is a source of Protective Factors for children. Protective Factors are conditions in families and communities that, when present, increase the health and well-being of children and families. These attributes serve as buffers, helping parents find resources, support or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, even under stress. Research has shown that the Protective Factors are linked to a lower incidence of child abuse and neglect.

Because quality ECE programs are staffed and built around knowledge of child development, they are providing a critical protective factor. Children thrive when caregivers provide not only affection, but also respectful communication and listening, consistent rules and expectations and safe opportunities that promote independence. Successful caregiving by ECE teachers and parents fosters psychological adjustment, helps children succeed in school, encourages curiosity about the world and motivates children to achieve.

Children’s early experiences of being nurtured and developing a positive relationship with a caring adult affects all aspects of behavior and development. Research shows that babies who receive affection and nurturing from their parents and caregivers have the best chance of healthy development. A child’s relationship with a consistent, caring adult in the early years is associated later in life with better academic grades, healthier behaviors, more positive peer interactions and an increased ability to cope with stress.

We know that families who can meet their own basic needs for food, clothing, housing and transportation—and who know how to access essential services such as child care, health care and mental health services to address family-specific needs—are better able to ensure the safety and well-being of their children. Many ECE programs partner with parents to identify and access resources in the community which may help prevent the stress that sometimes precipitates child maltreatment. Providing concrete supports, a key Protective Factor, may also help prevent the unintended neglect that sometimes occurs when parents are unable to provide for their children.

Parents with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family and neighbors often find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves. Now, while most of us are staying physically isolated to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, some parents find the connection to their ECE teacher is a connection to someone they trust, rely on and who can offer advice or concrete support. Research has shown that parents who are isolated, with few social connections, are at higher risk for child abuse and neglect.

Protective Factors are built in to ECE programs, providing a support system that builds strong families. Quality, affordable child care is foundation to building strong families, resilient children, caring communities and economic prosperity into the future.

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This blog is also published by Child Care Services Association.

Child Care Services Association works to ensure affordable, accessible, high quality child care for all families through research, services and advocacy. We are a leader and advocate in child care services on the local, state and national level. We collaborate with many partners, businesses and stakeholders to address needs within the child care system.