A Vision of Hope for the New Year: “Child abuse and neglect fatalities are preventable”

By Zuzana Urbanek, Program Manager, Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe Curriculum

“Child abuse and neglect fatalities are preventable, not inevitable.”


That is the first sentence of an article on TheHill.com. The article reports federal assistance to five health and human services sites to address severe and near-death injuries resulting from child abuse and neglect, chosen based on two years of research by the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.

This statement reflects the reality that five children die every day because of maltreatment. It’s also a launching point for a different view — that earlier prevention can change those numbers for the love of a child.


At Childhelp, our #FiveTooMany call for prevention education speaks to the current state of child welfare and the achievable dream of eliminating child abuse so that every child can reach her/his ultimate potential.

As the program manager for Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe (SUBS) prevention education curriculum, I believe education — offered early and consistently — is a key component of prevention. When part of a continuum of communitywide prevention efforts, it offers children another layer of protection from predators.  

John Hopkins, Chief Information & HIPAA Officer at Childhelp, points out, “The valuable advantage of prevention education is that it breaks the cycle. If kids are aware about safety cues and know how to combat abuse, they are empowered to prevent it, both for themselves and others. Prevention education can break the cycle of abuse, neglect, bullying, and other at-risk situations.”

For less than $5 a child, we can be part of the solution to saving the #FiveTooMany promising lives lost each day to abuse.

As agencies work together to build prevention safety nets to better communities, Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe offers a unifying language all stakeholders can speak. Best of all, it gives children a voice.

Proven Prevention Strategies

A handful of curriculum programs exists for use in schools. Many are limited to certain grades or cover only sexual abuse. Childhelp SUBS is the only comprehensive, developmentally appropriate, ecological approach to prevention education for grades Pre-K to 12. It provides educators with proven training and tools to help students recognize unsafe situations or abusive behaviors, building resistance skills and a responsive safety network with peers and adults.

One admirable aim in recent efforts to prevent fatalities is that they strive to identify and evaluate evidence-based practices.

Awareness and reporting of abuse rises when children receive a school-based prevention curriculum. To understand and improve these outcomes, the Childhelp SUBS program is part of a research partnership with Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center (SIRC) at Arizona State University to learn more about what works in prevention education.

The aim of Childhelp SUBS is to educate and empower every child to speak up and be safe.

A Safe Classroom

The safety and lives of our children warrant cohesive action.

Currently, efforts by individual states make abuse prevention education a part of school programs, and state legislation focuses mainly on sexual abuse, but even in states where prevention curriculum is mandated, schools struggle with limited staff, funds and the weight of existing mandates. This makes it tough for schools and districts to find ways to include prevention curriculum.

What we know is that children are less likely to be victimized when nurturing adults, like effective educators, teach them about child abuse through school-based prevention programs (Finkelhor, D. & Dziuba-Leatherman, J., 1995).

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, children experiencing abuse trauma suffer from lower GPA, school absences, increased dropout rates, more suspensions/expulsions and decreased reading ability. Aggression, social anxiety and an inability to concentrate on schoolwork show how untreated abuse diminishes a child’s chance at a brighter future through education.

From developing evidence-based curriculum, to considering incentives for educators, to exploring various ways to facilitate the delivery of prevention education, Childhelp is harnessing strategies to make sure children receive lifesaving lessons.

We are committed to making 2020 the year of prevention education. Child abuse and neglect fatalities are preventable. Join us in SPEAKING UP so they can BE SAFE!

To learn more about Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe, visit speakupbesafe.org