Saint Louis University’s College for Public Health and Social Justice has been awarded a grant from Missouri Foundation for Health to develop and evaluate a training program designed to help bystanders safely intervene when they witness child maltreatment in public settings.
[Photo: Dr. Nancy Weaver]
Child maltreatment is a significant problem; as many as one third of U.S. children are the subject of an investigation for abuse or neglect before they turn 18.
“Evidence suggests that parents who are physically aggressive toward their child have a greater potential for child abuse. Public maltreatment is a critical opportunity for intervention and support,” said Dr. Nancy Weaver, associate professor of behavioral science and health education and principal investigator for the project.
The $341,000 grant will fund a two-year pilot project that examines the effectiveness of a training program for bystanders that offers strategies for intervening and guidance on when to turn to authorities if they see children being treated severely. The training will be accompanied by a social marketing campaign that reinforces messages during training and bolsters approaches for bystander interventions, such as how to distract a child to assist an overwhelmed parent.
A total of 40 employees at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and affiliates of two nonprofit social service agencies – Family Resource Center and Safe Connections – will receive the initial training, which will be guided by principles developed during fact-finding focus groups and adapted from a successful sexual violence prevention approach.
“We plan to train people in the community who have expressed a need for prevention strategies. We will address personal barriers to intervening and ask participants what types of parent/child interactions they observe most often that make them uncomfortable,” Dr. Weaver said.
“We will then teach and model how to respond safely and effectively. Our goal is for bystanders to become allies who create opportunities for parenting support.”