Evidence-Based Practices for Children Exposed to Violence: A Selection from Federal Databases

Print More

U.S. Department of Justice/U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

This report summarizes findings and evidence from federal reviews of research studies and program evaluations to help address childhood exposure to violence.

Based on the reviews of over 50 programs, the report describes common characteristics of those that are successful. For one thing they all incorporate approaches that combine home and center-based treatment, as well as more than one kind of treatment, such as individualized care, parent-child duel approach, parent training and psycho-educational services. They also offer developmental and cultural specific services.

A common barrier the report recognizes is the difficulty in engaging and retaining families in the service programs. This is especially hard with the families of children who have been exposed to violence because those families may have many safety concerns and other pressing needs. Lack of motivation some children’s parents makes helping them even more difficult.

Another barrier is the delicate balance involved for a care provider in reporting that a child is maltreated while a child or family is in treatment. It can be difficult to do so while keeping the relationship intact between the provider and the child’s caregiver. However, according to the report, some early evidence has indicated that with proper training on when and how to report with families in treatment, they can be effectively retained, and reporting can be managed without sacrificing treatment.

The report also outlines specific problem areas in current service programs. First of all, the safety and well-being of the child must be attended to first. Before the child can be effectively treated, they must be removed from any dangerous or traumatic environment.

It is also essential that care providers be aware of the specific needs of a child that has been through trauma. They must have access to treatments such as Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy or Exposure Therapy.

Caregivers should also be aware of and address the possibility of substance abuse and mental health problems in the parents of the child. Such things can interfere with their ability to parent and may be related to the maltreatment of the child.

Schools should also be included in the treatment process, given the large amount of time that children spend in school, the report said. There should be connections between the education, health and social service systems, providers and advocates.

Attorney General Eric Holder used some Justice Department funds to start the Defending Childhood initiative, which seeks to provide specific care to children who have been exposed to violence as victims and witnesses.

Free. 27 pages.

Read the report here.