Playing with our young children – be it peek-a-boo, tickle fights, or dance parties – is not only one of the great joys of parenting. It’s also a valuable opportunity to foster a child’s development and strengthen healthy bonds that impact their ability to relate to the world around them. The video below from UMass Boston illustrates how this principle affects babies almost immediately:

As the video illustrates, denying children positive interactions with their parents, which happens in instances of abuse or neglect, can negatively impact their development and leave them vulnerable to social and emotional issues that jeopardize their ability to become contributing members of society.

Those consequences are significant, as nearly 3 million children in the United States experience some form of maltreatment each year.[i] In response, communities are joining forces to confront this broad social issue. For example, 22 counties throughout California recently convened in San Diego for the first-ever Child Abuse Prevention Summit. The event was the first time that partners from the government, nonprofit, and child abuse prevention sectors met in a statewide effort to discuss abuse prevention, and we are honored to play a role in that process.

The County of San Diego invited YMCA Childcare Resource Service to attend for our work helping low-income families pay for child care and for helping foster families find short-term child care to stabilize the permanency of those placements. Our presence made the other counties in attendance realize the critical role child care plays in stabilizing families, particularly those involved or at-risk of involvement in the Child Welfare System.

Our experience with providers and parents alike puts us in a unique position to participate in a multi-disciplinary, cross-sector workgroup that includes First 5 San Diego, Casey Family Programs, the County of San Diego Departments of Public Health, Child Welfare Services, and Office of Education as well as the Child Abuse Prevention Council, Children’s Legal Services and Behavioral Health Services. Together, we commit to developing a shared strategy to accomplish shared goals for child abuse prevention and family well-being. Our work will pay particular attention to the social-emotional development of young children to prevent unnecessary expulsions and improve their chances for success later in life.

We are encouraged that stakeholders are starting to realize the gravity of the issue and look forward to playing an active role to improve the lives of vulnerable families throughout our community.

[i] Ringel, Jeanne S., et. al. "Improving Child Welfare Outcomes: Balancing Investments in Prevention and Treatment," 2017.