Promising Evidence that Early Head Start Can Prevent Child Maltreatment


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May 27, 2015

Brazelton Touchpoints Center (BTC) staff Dr. Catherine Ayoub, Jessica Dym Bartlett, and Adam Von Ende have co-authored a study and research-to-practice brief (with Rachel Chazan-Cohen and Beth Green) offering promising evidence that participation in Early Head Start can prevent child maltreatment. This study is the first examination of the impact of Early Head Start on child maltreatment.

From the Summary of Findings:

“This study used data from a subset of programs that were involved in an evaluation of Early Head Start. It found that about one in six children eligible for Early Head Start in this sample had either a substantiated report of child maltreatment or an out-of-home placement due to child maltreatment (a “child-welfare encounter”) by the time they were 13 years of age. However, children in Early Head Start had significantly fewer child welfare encounters between the ages of five and nine years than did children in the control group. Early Head Start children were also less likely to have multiple encounters and had a longer time before subsequent encounters. Additionally, compared to children in the control group, children in Early Head Start were less likely to have a substantiated report of physical or sexual abuse, but more likely to have a substantiated report of neglect. There was some evidence (a non-significant statistical trend) that Early Head Start children had fewer total child welfare encounters. These findings suggest that Early Head Start may be effective in reducing child maltreatment among low-income children, in particular, physical and sexual abuse. These findings have been published in peer reviewed literature.”

BTC has delivered professional development, early child care and education training, and technical assistance to more than 175 child care centers and family child care programs and to more than 160 Head Start/Early Head Start centers or programs (including home-based programs) in 40 states and 15 tribal sovereign nations. In 2010, the Office of Head Start National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement was established at BTC.

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