|Who Are We Serving?|
In order for prevention programs to fully engage in the evaluation process, they must have a clear understanding of the challenges that children, families and communities encounter, as well as the complexities of prevention work. These understandings help us formulate program philosophy and structure, and they inform day-to-day practice. Child maltreatment is defined in a 2003 publication from the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Children’s Bureau, Emerging Practices in the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect: Abuse and neglect occurs in families from all walks of life, and across all socioeconomic, religious, and ethnic groups. There is no single, identifiable cause of child maltreatment; rather, it occurs as a result of an interaction of multiple forces impacting the family*. If child maltreatment can affect all families and occurs as a result of multiple factors, then prevention activities, ideally, should be comprehensive and available to all families who need them. For varied reasons, prevention programs are often restricted to serving those at greatest risk for maltreatment. A thorough understanding of the targeted population is necessary to develop appropriate services, and, of course, to develop a sound evaluation plan.
Gather data on your target population’s, age, gender, ethnicity, educational status, economic status, and personal protective and risk factors. Then, consider the community-wide factors and conditions that positively or negatively affect the target population. Armed with this information, you can design services and identify outcomes that are the right “fit” for these participants. Learn more about understanding the population you serve by clicking here.
*Emerging Practices in the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect pg. 3, Child Welfare Information Gateway, http://www.childwelfare.gov/preventing/programs/whatworks/report/index.cfm