An ounce of prevention

The move to keep active a child abuse prevention program slated to be dissolved under the LePage administration is an important one. Without programs like this in place, even more cases of child abuse could go undetected.

We know one program cannot prevent every case of child abuse. And we have learned in recent weeks that long-term, severe cases of child abuse cannot always be prevented — even when the actions are repeatedly reported to the proper authorities.

But if the programs in place can save one child from abuse, shouldn't we support those programs?

Portland Press Herald reported there is a bill making its way through the Legislature to keep a program called Community Partnership for Children in place for another year or so. (See page 1 story.) And the effort is being led by Rockland Rep. Pinny Beebe-Center with the support of Waldo County Sen. Michael Thibodeau.

According to the Press Herald, Thibodeau has been urging LePage to get personally involved in finding solutions to Maine’s system of protecting children, after the deaths of 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy of Stockton Springs and 4-year-old Kendall Chick of Wiscasset. The parents or caregivers of both children have been charged with depraved indifference murder.

The governor recently told reporters he sees “major holes” in Maine’s child protection system and he’s been working on the issue with Maine Department of Health and Human Services officials. Lawmakers also tasked the Legislature’s watchdog agency with reviewing the two girls' deaths and the system.

Yet, Maine DHHS officials told nonprofit agencies a few weeks before Marissa Kennedy's death that they were pulling funding from the child abuse prevention program — effective Sept. 30 — because it duplicates other programs and is not evidence-based.

But those operating the Community Partnerships for Protecting Children program — including Broadreach Family and Community Services in Belfast — argued the prevention program is the most effective of its kind, based on scientific research.

“We need this program,” Beebe-Center said. “It’s a grassroots, boots-on-the-ground program. It’s just common sense that it’s better if you can prevent something from happening.”

According to the website about the program, "compared with traditional child welfare systems, CPPC involves many more partners, including neighbors, parents, law enforcement, schools, faith communities and social service providers." These partners can reach out and support families before they face crises, the website states, and intervene more rapidly and effectively when abuse and neglect occur.

In Knox, Waldo, Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties, there are numerous partnerships with law enforcement, schools, churches, individuals and service organizations. The variety of partnerships reaches all economic and social levels, meaning a struggling child is more likely to interact with someone who can help.

There are several ways to become involved as an individual as well, ranging from attending CPPC meetings (local meetings are held in Rockland), participating in free training sessions, volunteering or becoming a Preventive Family Team Meeting Facilitator.

It may not feel as though one individual can make a difference, but we have seen — in those with enough passion for a cause — that the opposite proves to be true.

No time to volunteer? At least take 60 seconds to email or call your state representative and ask them to support the delay in shutting down Community Partnerships for Protecting Children.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.