Earlier in April, VetoViolence and Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) recognized National Youth Violence Prevention Week through an “Ask the Expert” forum on Facebook. The event ignited a conversation about the importance of preventing youth violence before it starts. This week, to continue raising awareness and sharing resources on preventing violence before it starts, VetoViolence and Prevent Child Abuse America are hosting a second Ask the Expert forum on Facebook focused on child maltreatment prevention in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month.
I had the opportunity to interview Ben Tanzer, Senior Director of Strategic Communication for Prevent Child Abuse America, who is also a trained social worker. Ben talks about his work at Prevent Child Abuse America, their awareness campaign on child maltreatment, as well as the challenges they face in improving outcomes for children.
SWH: Tell us about your background and the work you do with Prevent Child Abuse America.
PCAA: I am a trained social worker who always wanted to work on children’s issues and always had a love for words. At Prevent Child Abuse America I get to play a role in our efforts to tell the story of early child development. How a programming and policy focus on enhancing a child’s brain, and their social-emotional life, has long-term positive impacts for both the individual and society. But that exposure to violence, poverty, and child abuse and neglect can undermine all of that. We try to tell this story through traditional means, press releases, statements, and interviews, as well as, new media, Twitter, blogging, Facebook, and the like.
SWH: What are the primary goals and objectives of Prevent Child Abuse America, and what activities help you work towards the achievement of those goals?
PCAA: Our primary goals and objectives are to create a society in which all children are given the support they need and the healthy childhood they deserve. A society in which all adults realize they play a role in the lives of all children, and in which no child is ever abused or neglected. We work to build awareness of the different ways that people can affect the lives of children and families in their communities as well as working to increase knowledge and understanding of our primary prevention program, Healthy Families America (HFA).
SWH: What are the biggest barriers and challenges your organization faces in reducing child abuse in America today?
PCAA: One of the largest barriers that we face is a communications challenge: that people are aware that child abuse and neglect is an issue and want to do something about it, but don’t know how. Many of us are conditioned to believe that the only way we can help a child in need is by calling CPS if we suspect something is wrong. While this action is critically important, we know that there is much more that can be done to help prevent child abuse as opposed to intervening in an abusive situation, including everything from knocking on a neighbor’s door to see if they want a break from parenting to volunteering at local child-serving organizations to advocating for the expansion of innovative prevention and family support programs that may already exist in the communities we live in
SWH: How does your work engage or incorporate social workers in helping to improve outcomes for children?
PCAA: Healthy Families of America employs home visitors in communities across the nation, who may or may not be trained social workers, but who are providing support to families modeled on the core tenets of social work, for example, meeting people where they’re at, be that geographically, culturally, or emotionally. Further, many of the staffers in our chapters and at our national office are social workers by training. Social workers are critical to the success of our organization and our mission.
SWH: What do you hope to accomplish with the Facebook Ask the Expert awareness event, and how can regular, everyday people help prevent child abuse?
PCAA: We hope that the Ask the Expert event will help those who are interested in learning more about early child development and prevention better understand the various ways they can help play a role in promoting healthy child development and the prevention of abuse and neglect before it starts. If we’re able to spread the word to just a few interested people, and they in turn are able to help their friends and family understand that they, too, play a role, then we’re one big step closer to the kind of society we’re working towards.