Child Maltreatment Prevention in Rural Communities

Child Maltreatment Prevention in Rural Communities

Tosin O. Alabi (Fielding Graduate University, USA) and Sandra D. Barnes (Fielding Graduate University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0228-9.ch002
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For more than half a century, child maltreatment prevention programs have been implemented in communities across America with hopes of stopping the abuse and neglect of children. To broaden the understanding of maltreatment in rural families, risk markers and protective factors are discussed with specific attention to contextual stressors and resources available in rural communities. Furthermore, primary maltreatment prevention initiatives directed at improving parenting practices and increasing public awareness of child maltreatment are reviewed. Also discussed are empirically supported secondary and tertiary maltreatment prevention programs that are commonly used to intervene with families at risk for interfacing with child welfare and protection agencies, or in instances of substantiated maltreatment. Preventing ill-treatment of children in rural communities requires ingenuity, community engagement and leadership, and governmental funding to best serve children and their families.
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An estimated 65 million people live in rural or remote areas where “few people live across a large geographic area” (Sedlak et al, 2010; The Housing Assistance Council, n.d, p.14) of the United States. Children make up 23% of America’s rural population (The Housing Assistance Council, n.d). According to the Carsey Institute, 28% of the reported cases of maltreatment in rural areas were for physical abuse, 14% for sexual abuse, 47% for neglect, 12% for other abuse (e.g., abandonment, emotional, and moral/legal maltreatment), and 26% were categorized under multiple abuses (Mattingly & Walsh, 2010). The reality is that children typically experience more than one form of maltreatment (Belsky, 1993; Chaffin, Silovsky, Funderburk et al., 2004)

Of the known cases of abuse and neglect, national surveys reveal a steady decline in the recurrence of ill-treatment of children. For instance, the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4) showed a 36% reduction in ill treatment of children between 1996 and 2006 (Sedlak, Mettenburg, Basena et al., 2010), and the Carsey Institute reported a 52% reduction for confirmed physical and sexual abuse cases between 1990 and 2007 (Mattingly & Walsh, 2010). Even though these findings are promising, the numbers do not account for unreported child victimization and known cases of abuse that are not addressed because they do not meet the definition of child maltreatment per regional/state definitions (Fallon, Trocme, Fluke, et al., 2010). For this reason, there is a significant need for prevention and intervention strategies that reach vulnerable children who are not accounted for in the child welfare and protection system.

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