Characteristics of Young Children Exposed to Violence: The Safe Start Demonstration Project
Kaufman, Joy S.
Schewe, Paul A.
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The Safe Start Demonstration Projects, funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) under the first phase of the Safe Start initiative, were primarily designed to impact change at the systems or macro levels to reduce the incidence of and impact of exposure to violence for children age birth-6, direct services were also provided to young children and their families who were exposed to violence. The data presented in this paper come from 10 communities that submitted data regarding the characteristics of young children exposed to violence to OJJDP. These data represent families who are typically not represented in the databases of state child protective services programs, but instead have been identified by domestic violence advocates, early care and education providers, family members, court personnel, police, and other social service personnel as families with young children in need of intervention due to violence exposure. The purpose of this manuscript is to describe the characteristics of young children and their parents who seek help for psycho-social problems related to exposure to family and community violence. Results indicate that one-quarter of the children and nearly half of their parents evidenced clinical levels of stress suggesting the need to intervene at the family level as well as at the individual level when working with young children exposed to violence. The information presented, including the extent of exposure to violence, the multiple types of violence to which children are exposed, the impact of this exposure on young children and their families, and the multiple ways in which families exposed to violence come to the attention of service providers is useful for policy makers and service providers that are interested in breaking the cycle of violence by meeting the needs of the children exposed to violence and their families.