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Report on Project to Reduce Child Deaths Due to Abuse and Neglect

Child Safety Forward (CSF) has released the final evaluation report of its 3-year demonstration initiative to develop multidisciplinary strategies and responses to reduce fatalities or near-death injuries due to child abuse or neglect.

CSF was launched in October 2019 to address concerns that the number of child deaths due to abuse and neglect remained stubbornly high (and was widely believed to be underreported), despite the overall U.S. child mortality rate improving. It was funded by an Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) grant with technical assistance led by Social Current. Five nationwide demonstration sites participated in CSF—

  • Indiana Department of Health;
  • Cook County Health, Illinois;
  • Michigan Department of Health and Human Services;
  • Sacramento County’s Child Abuse Prevention Council, California; and
  • Saint Francis Hospital, Hartford, Connecticut.

To push the status quo forward and move away from the “checkbox” measure of progress, CSF was guided by a developmental, rather than traditional evaluation. A developmental evaluation promotes innovation through ongoing reflection, learning, and adaption. It allows project teams to rapidly pivot as they gather new information and insights, rather than waiting to retroactively evaluate what worked and what didn’t once the demonstration period has ended.

In practice, this meant that an external implementation evaluation team collected data to understand how community-based collaboratives and the demonstration sites themselves were successfully advancing strategies to reduce childhood injuries and fatalities due to maltreatment, and how the technical assistance model supported the goals for each site. They then shared this information with the demonstration sites and offered tools to help them learn and adapt from it. 

While each site’s goals and strategies were specific to their local context and communities, all five sites successfully expanded their understanding of how to promote child and family well-being by considering both risk factors and protective factors for child abuse or neglect, which is at the heart of a public health approach.

Two key lessons highlighted in the report were—

  1. sustainability goes beyond funding to include factors that foster systems change (such as culturally responsive practices that address root causes of complex issues); and
  2. ambitious, large-scale initiatives require a communication strategy to widen the media’s reporting lens and shift traditional ways of thinking.

Each site received technical assistance in developing and implementing a communication strategy. The result has been robust local and even national media coverage in blogs, radio shows and podcasts, and news outlets.

Read the final report

F or more information about this project, visit the Child Safety Forward initiative website.

Date Published: October 13, 2023