Parenting program decreases child abuse, foster placements
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PARENTING program developed in Australia and exported to 17 countries can reduce child-abuse injuries and foster-care placements, a study has shown.
The Positive Parenting Program, known as Triple P, cut child-abuse injuries and foster placements in nine counties in South Carolina while the rates increased in nine similar counties without the program.
Substantiated child-abuse cases did not increase in the counties using the program but grew substantially in the other group.
The founder of Triple P, Matt Sanders, of the University of Queensland, said the five-year US study showed for the first time that providing all families - not just those at risk - with an effective parenting program could reduce child abuse.
"If you make an evidence-based parenting program widely available, neighbours talk to neighbours, and you reach a certain threshold where it is no longer OK to hurt your kids, and parents look to alternatives to screaming, yelling and smacking," Professor Sanders said.
The study, led by Ronald Prinz, a professor of psychology at the University of South Carolina, was funded by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and reported in the online journal Prevention Science .
It says in an area with 100,000 children under eight, the results would translate to 688 fewer cases of maltreatment, 60 fewer children with injuries requiring hospitalisation and 240 fewer children placed in foster care.
Professor Sanders began to develop Triple P as a doctoral student in 1978 and it was introduced to Australian parents in 1993. Many independent evaluations have found the program, with simple routines and small changes, effective for individual parents. This is the first time it was shown to reduce child maltreatment in communities.
Professor Sanders called on the Federal Government to make parenting programs part of its public health strategy.
He said only 22 per cent of parents of two- to 12-year-olds had attended a parenting program, and only 7 per cent had attended a program with proven effectiveness.
He said targeting the families at greatest risk would not solve the problem, partly because of the stigma of attendance.
The NSW Government has invested $5.2 million in Triple P and is putting the program into use across the state.
Access Economics has estimated that child abuse cost Australia at least $10.7 billion in 2007.