Penn State represented at Congressional briefing addressing child maltreatment

Yo Jackson, associate director of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network and professor of psychology at Penn State, recently provided testimony on strengthening prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect to the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor’s subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services.

Jackson, whose research focuses on the resilience of youth exposed to trauma and child maltreatment, was one of four witnesses on a panel who briefed Congress on the importance of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which is up for reauthorization.

According to Jackson, CAPTA is the only federal legislation addressing the prevention of child abuse and neglect. CAPTA provides federal funding and guidance to states in support of prevention, assessment, investigation, prosecution, and treatment activities, as well as supporting research and data collection along with providing a national clearinghouse of information on child abuse and neglect.

Jackson spoke about how child maltreatment is a significant public health problem. “In 2017, 1,720 children died as a result of child maltreatment, placing the U.S. only second to Mexico for the most intentional child fatalities in the developed world. Child maltreatment is the second most prevalent childhood public health problem in the U.S., just after obesity.”

According to Jackson, most victims of child abuse and neglect are under the age of 7, a time of great plasticity in the developing brain and a sensitive period for developing relationships and forming attachments. “Child maltreatment has serious negative consequences for brain development and can result in a lifetime of negative health behaviors and higher rates of all forms of mental health diagnosis. Some of the abused may adapt but most will never overcome unless adequate prevention programs are in place.”

Jackson also emphasized the economics of child maltreatment, stating that it costs the U.S. roughly $428 billion for the number of victims created over the course of just one year. Meanwhile, targeted programs such as Safe Care®, which emphasizes parent-child interaction therapy, returned over $21 for every dollar invested.

“The CAPTA reauthorization presents an opportunity to strengthen these and other prevention efforts by increasing community capacity for coordinating services and systems, and investing in rigorous evaluation and innovation based on research,” Jackson said.

Jackson was asked to provide testimony after Jennie Noll, director of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network and professor of human development and family studies, co-organized a Congressional briefing  and created a written brief last fall. This brief describes the current research pertaining to the cost of maltreatment, a framework for prevention strategies, and the need for further evaluation of prevention services.

These efforts were supported by faculty members of Penn State’s Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative, including Michael Donovan, director of policy and outreach at the Administrative Data Accelerator, and Taylor Scott, associate director of the Research-to-Policy Collaboration.

The Child Maltreatment Solutions Network advances Penn State’s academic mission of teaching, research, and engagement in the area of child maltreatment. It is part of the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State.