A new project at the University of Tampere aims to prevent child abuse. The goal is to raise the awareness and skills of professionals who work with families with children and to make them better at recognising abuse and estimating its risk.
“We will start using a risk assessment tool and a related support intervention, which has previously been tested both internationally and in Finland,” says Professor Eija Paavilainen, the research director.
The tool is a form, which the parents fill in at the child health clinic or a visit to some other social and health services. The information on the form is used as the basis for a discussion conducted with the parents.
An online course will also be designed for child services personnel highlighting such points as estimating the risk, broaching the subject of child abuse, informing relevant parties, supporting the family in child-friendly nurture and cooperating in multiprofessional teams.
The researchers will also evaluate how efficient the risk estimation tool, the support interventions and professional training are.
The School of Health Sciences at the University of Tampere will cooperate with the South Ostrobothnia Health Care District, the City of Seinäjoki, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences as well as organisations active in Seinäjoki and other organisations concerned with providing services to families with children.
The resources of the child and the family should be supported
“When the risk of abuse is estimated, it is crucial to estimate the child’s and the whole family’s situation so that the child’s and the family’s own resources can be supported. The work can then concentrate on making the family stronger and highlighting the positive aspects in the family’s everyday life,” Paavilainen says.
According to Paavilainen, labelling the families as families at risk just because such risks exist should be avoided.
“It is important to recognise and admit that risk factors, problems and challenges exist and that the professionals can work together with the family to overcome them. If the family can receive support when they need it, potential serious consequences can be avoided.”
Child abuse is a public health problem
“Child abuse is a serious public health problem. The international estimate is that 4—16 per cent of children in the Western countries are physically abused and 10 per cent are neglected or suffer from mental abuse,” Paavilainen says.
Abuse means such things as physical and mental abuse, neglecting the care of the child and that the child has to witness violence between the parents. Abuse has serious consequences for the child’s physical and socio-emotional health and well-being. The different types of abuse have been shown to create permanent changes in the child’s brain and to have an adverse effect on the development of the brain. Child abuse may even result in the death of the child.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health funds the project with EUR 200,000.
For more information, please contact: Professor Eija Paavilainen, tel. +358 40 190 4079