Prevention-focused child welfare agencies partner with communities and other systems to provide services that prevent maltreatment and family separation, strengthen families’ capacity to thrive, and promote children’s well-being. The prevention framework describes prevention as occurring along a three-level continuum:

  • Primary prevention connects families to needed resources and supports within their community.  
  • Secondary prevention provides families with services to address family needs and prevent child abuse and neglect.
  • Tertiary prevention services are provided to families in which child maltreatment has already occurred with the goal of preventing recurrence and to avoid family separation.

The ideal approach to prevention within a community encompasses all three levels and includes tailored, equitable services to halt unnecessary separations of children and parents and improve their outcomes. Prevention services should address power imbalances between families and agencies, value family input, and prioritize community-centered and culturally responsive services.

The Family First Prevention Services Act provides funding for evidence-based prevention services to build the capacity of communities to support families. The law offers an opportunity for child welfare systems to infuse race equity, lived expertise, and kin-first culture into prevention practices across the continuum.

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