November 10, 2013

Another View: Community partnerships fight child abuse

Working together as neighbors, we can help families break the devastating cycle.

By Deb Dunlap

families to break the devastating cycle.


Deb Dunlap of South Portland is project director of Community Partnerships for Protecting Children, which works with organizations on children’s issues.

In reference to the Bill Nemitz article regarding interventions for at risk youth and families, we have long known that child protective agencies in Maine, and nationwide, lack the resources to provide every support and intervention needed by our most vulnerable citizens. (“Risk of tragic outcome followed Collins-Faunce” Nov. 1).

In response, partners in Greater Portland, Biddeford and Bangor have been working with DHHS to build a different approach.

Community Partnerships for Protecting Children builds systems for neighborhood-based child protection by increasing coordination between professional and natural helpers, and focusing on the ways parents, neighbors, DHHS, police, social service workers, schools, interfaith communities and businesses can work together.

We know that intervening with families at the right time is critical to reducing and preventing child abuse and neglect. In this community child protection model, intervention is broad and varied: offering a neighbor support; connecting with a parent in a school or faith community; sharing concerns with community police; referring family members to services; calling the child protection hotline. This low-cost, neighborhood approach requires people to step out of their comfort zone, with the shared belief that every community member has a moral obligation to ensure children are healthy and safe.

We know that families are able to come through trauma and break the cycle of abuse. Many of the protective factors that resilient families have in common are the result of strong community connections. Working together as neighbors, we can increase the number of families who are able to move outside this devastating cycle, and reduce the likelihood of tragic outcomes.

If you want to get involved in CPPC in your neighborhood, please contact us at

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