Preventing Child Abuse Through Family-Friendly Workplace Policies


April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and this year’s focus is Building Connected Communities. We know that implementing family friendly policies and programs in the workplace is one of the ways we can create strong, supportive communities around our children and families, helping to prevent abuse. 

Child abuse affects a community’s quality of life and economic prosperity, burdening its healthcare, education, and criminal justice systems. And it doesn’t just impact children. Research shows that children who experience Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), like abuse or neglect, are at a higher risk for health problems as adults. These can include mental health issues, substance abuse, and chronic diseases. 

A 2018 report by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates the total lifetime costs associated with just one year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and neglect) are approximately $428 BILLION.

Challenging life circumstances can overload and overburden parents and caregivers. The risk to our nation’s children for experiencing child abuse and neglect in times of extreme stress and uncertainty is quite high. Parents and caregivers face stressors like loss of employment, loss of income due to lack of paid leave, school and business closings, ongoing health concerns, uncertain child care and homeschool arrangements, food insecurity, and more. Policies and programs that put families first help build community resilience. Working in partnership can allow us to relieve some of the overload experienced by parents and caregivers.

According to Positive Childhood Alliance North Carolina (previously Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina), family friendly workplace policies improve the balance between work and family while ensuring family economic security. These policies can include things like fair and flexible scheduling, paid sick days, child care supports, pregnancy and lactation accommodations, and paid family and medical leave.

Financial insecurity is a common source of parental stress, which leads to a greater likelihood of child maltreatment. Concrete supports for families in times of need, particularly economic supports, are critical policy levers that support the prevention of child abuse and neglect. Policies that promote family economic security such as paid family and medical leave are associated with significantly higher rates of breastfeeding and maternal health, reductions in hospitalizations for abusive head trauma, and lower rates of family stressors and risk factors for child abuse and neglect. Additional policies like safe days and kin care can expand the type of support workplaces offer to their employees to help create stronger, more resilient families.

Family-friendly policies definitely benefit children and families, but these benefits are also enjoyed by employers. Not only do family-friendly workplace policies help attract and retain top talent, family-friendly employers benefit from reduced employee health care costs, a healthier work environment, and fewer employee absences. Paid family leave increases labor force participation, particularly among women, and states that have implemented paid family leave policies have seen that access to paid family leave has increased the likelihood of workers returning to work after a leave has ended.

On Friday, April 5, our nation, state, and local communities will stand united in a sea of blue, making a bold statement that they’re committed to challenging the status quo for how we support and strengthen all families and communities to nurture more positive childhoods for every child.

For more on how to family-friendly policies help prevent child abuse, visit Positive Childhood Alliance North Carolina, a Family Forward NC Certified Employer.