All of us are spending too much money on a preventable problem: child abuse and neglect. We are paying too much on interventions and treatment after children have been abused or neglected. Child abuse and neglect cases in 2015 alone will cost the United States more than $428 billion, according to a new study.

As the leader of the state’s only child abuse prevention organization, I know that it doesn’t have to be this way. Recent advances in the science of early childhood development tell us that the early years are a time when the brain is building itself from the ground up, much in the way a house is built with each level forming either a sturdy or a weak foundation for all the development that follows. And it is the relationships and experiences that children have early in life that are the building blocks. When children have stable, responsive relationships with caring adults at home and in the community, they get off to a good start with a strong foundation for future development.

When children don’t have these experiences, because of child abuse or neglect, exposure to violence, untreated parental mental illness, or other chronic challenges that produce what is now known as “toxic stress,” children suffer — and we put our future wellbeing as a state at risk. That’s why investing in programs proven to strengthen families and assist today’s changing workforce is so important…

Read more of this opinion editorial from The Fayetteville Observer.