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County-Wide Home Visiting Program Found to Reduce Child Abuse and Neglect

Healthy Families Montgomery Celebrates Ten Years of Service

BETHESDA, Md., Dec. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- Child abuse and neglect can be virtually eliminated when certain risk factors -- such as parental stress, maternal depression or a parent's social isolation -- are reduced, according to a new 10-year study released today by the Family Services Agency (FSA). The study tracked more than 600 families who participated in FSA's Healthy Families Montgomery program over the past ten years -- a program which provides in-home services to first time parents, helping them improve their child rearing skills and become more self sufficient.

"Providing support to high-risk families is absolutely critical to ensuring the health of our county's most vulnerable children," said Thom Harr, Executive Director of the Family Services Agency. "Research consistently shows that child abuse and neglect are linked to numerous long-term physical and mental health problems. This study shows that Healthy Families Montgomery is working -- that's great news for all of us."

Nationwide, more than 900,000 children are victims of abuse and neglect, with an estimated 1,500 child fatalities -- a rate of just over four fatalities each day. Nearly 80% of the children killed are younger than four.

In its ten year history, there have been only six cases of founded child maltreatment, and all of these were neglect. The study demonstrates that HFM is not only achieving positive outcomes with its high-risk families but is also meeting or exceeding county, state and national rates for the general population. Specifically:

-- The program successfully linked 99% of target children and 100% of

mothers with medical providers. Nearly all mothers enrolled in the

program (97%) gave birth to babies with healthy birth weights.

-- A full 80% of mothers completed their postpartum visit, resulting in

the prevention of repeat births within two years of the target child's

birth for 92% of all mothers and 100% of teens.

-- A full 95% of target children received the recommended schedule of

immunizations, surpassing the state and national rates of 78%.

-- And 96% of target children met developmental milestones, providing

strong evidence of the program's ability to impact environmental

factors in developmental delays.

HFM is highly effective at promoting self-sufficiency among mothers, which is key to preventing depression and stress -- both major risk factors for child abuse. For example, among program participants, the number of working moms went from 25% to 48%. Ninety-four percent either maintained stable housing or improved their housing status.

According to the study, the most successful HFM participants are likely to be Hispanic, with Spanish as the primary language, and become high school graduates or continue their education while enrolled in the program. However, the most successful participants who ultimately graduate from the program are also likely to have the highest risk at program entry in the areas of social isolation, depression, and unsafe homes.

HFM, an accredited Healthy Families America program, serves first-time parents who are faced with an array of challenges which may include: limited education, maternal depression, insufficient knowledge of normal child development, poverty, substance abuse issues, limited self-sufficiency, or who experienced abuse or neglect as a child. The program is set up to help families attain self-sufficiency and confidence as a parent via an on-going goal setting process. The home visitor further supports the family with child development education and linkage to community resources.

The Healthy Families Montgomery Ten Year Longitudinal study was conducted by Donna D. Klagholz, Ph.D. & Associates, LLC. For a copy of the study, contact Janet Curran at HFM, 610 East Diamond Avenue, Suite 100, Gaithersburg, MD 20877.

About the Family Services Agency

From newborns to adults, the Family Services Agency, Inc., an affiliate of the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Foundation, provides high-quality services to foster health and well-being in the home, school and community. FSA offers educational and child development services as well as health and behavioral health for children and families. As the oldest non-profit organization headquartered in Montgomery County, FSA has responded to the growing and changing needs of the community and will be celebrating its centennial anniversary in 2008. For more information, visit

SOURCE Family Services Agency
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