The Central Ohio Regional Prevention Plan communicates the Regional Prevention Council’s strategies and funding requests for preventing child abuse and neglect in the 13 counties making up the Central Ohio region.
The plan also summarizes the factors affecting child abuse and neglect in Central Ohio and the most pressing needs for families, which were identified during the needs assessment process.
The plan identified the growing substance abuse epidemic as a factor contributing to a rise in child abuse and neglect reports, without an increase in child abuse and neglect prevention services to address the issue.
Central Ohio Risk Factors
Some particular risk factors identified in Central Ohio include:
- Substance abuse during pregnancy becoming a major source of reports to child protective services
- Thousands of babies born each year to mothers who abused substances while pregnant
- Challenges in participation in prevention programs by parents who have substance addictions
Central Ohio Priority Outcomes
Through the planning process and recommendations of the working group, the Regional Council prioritized these outcomes as ones to try to change.
- Substance abuse by parents
- Nurturing parenting skills
- Household rules and child monitoring
- Parents’ knowledge of children’s needs and child development
- Parents’ thoughts or emotions that justify abusive or neglectful behavior
- Parental stress
- Percent of mothers not receiving prenatal care in the first trimester
- Percent of mothers smoking during pregnancy
- Percent of births that are low birth weight
- Rate of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
- Access to health and social services
For the community:
- Public support for child abuse/neglect prevention
- Policy-makers’ support for child abuse/neglect prevention
The prevention plan also identifies the contextual factors that may influence child abuse and neglect in the region that may not change, but that should be monitored. Many of these are linked to poverty, and include:
- Rate of Medicaid hospitalizations for alcohol and substance use disorders
- Rate of births to teen mothers
- Percent of children living in households with Supplemental Security Income (SSI), cash public assistance income or SNAP benefits
- Percent of households with presence of unmarried partner of householder
For the community:
- Percent of households in poverty
- Percent of adults who are unemployed
- Percent of households that are vacant
Prevention Strategies for Central Ohio
The working group examined programs and strategies that had been effective in preventing child abuse and neglect in the region and identified where there were gaps to be filled. A particular gap identified was the need for prevention services among pregnant, substance-abusing mothers or families at heightened risk of substance abuse.
While assessing the needs of the region, the working group developed a set of recommendations that served as part of the criteria for prevention strategies:
- Reduce the number of reports of child abuse/neglect per year. This should focus on the number of new reports – those involving families who had not previously entered the child welfare system.
- Consider targeted prevention approaches for families with a drug-addicted parent. The Regional Prevention Council should consider prevention efforts that work with families struggling with addiction before maltreatment occurs. One approach may involve support to pregnant women struggling with addiction or with parents at heightened risk of substance abuse.
- Focus on a limited number of programs and activities. These should align with priority outcomes, and should have a successful track record of implementation in central Ohio. Nonetheless, the Regional Prevention Council should also consider novel, promising approaches that may fit the Central Ohio Region.
With these recommendations in mind, the Regional Prevention Council identified two key strategies.
Implement a pilot program to provide counseling and case management to pregnant, substance-abusing mothers, with a separate funding source for prenatal care and substance abuse treatment for many of the women.
The pilot is expected to improve the lives of children in multiple ways, including lowered likelihood of experiencing child abuse and neglect, improved family lives due to the elimination of parental drug use, and a higher likelihood of kinship care, when able. It is estimated that this program has the potential to reach approximately 146 mothers within the region.
Deliver evidence-based parenting classes that can reach families that may be at risk for substance use or child abuse or neglect, and who have not yet been in the child welfare system.
The Central Ohio regional prevention plan anticipates parents will be involved in prevention strategies by participating in focus groups to provide feedback on programming. Additionally, the regional coordinator team at Nationwide Children’s Hospital will reach out to parents during on-site visits and during outreach campaigns.