Context: Effective strategies for preventing child maltreatment are needed. Few primary care-based programs have been developed, and most have not been well evaluated.
Objective: Our goal was to evaluate the efficacy of the Safe Environment for Every Kid model of pediatric primary care in reducing the occurrence of child maltreatment.
Methods: A randomized trial was conducted from June 2002 to November 2005 in a university-based resident continuity clinic in Baltimore, Maryland. The study population consisted of English-speaking parents of children (0-5 years) brought in for child health supervision. Of the 1118 participants approached, 729 agreed to participate, and 558 of them completed the study protocol. Resident continuity clinics were cluster randomized by day of the week to the model (intervention) or standard care (control) groups. Model care consisted of (1) residents who received special training, (2) the Parent Screening Questionnaire, and (3) a social worker. Risk factors for child maltreatment were identified and addressed by the resident physician and/or social worker. Standard care involved routine pediatric primary care. A subset of the clinic population was sampled for the evaluation. Child maltreatment was measured in 3 ways: (1) child protective services reports using state agency data; (2) medical chart documentation of possible abuse or neglect; and (3) parental report of harsh punishment via the Parent-Child Conflict Tactics scale.
Results: Model care resulted in significantly lower rates of child maltreatment in all the outcome measures: fewer child protective services reports, fewer instances of possible medical neglect documented as treatment nonadherence, fewer children with delayed immunizations, and less harsh punishment reported by parents. One-tailed testing was conducted in accordance with the study hypothesis.
Conclusions: The Safe Environment for Every Kid (SEEK) model of pediatric primary care seems promising as a practical strategy for helping prevent child maltreatment. Replication and additional evaluation of the model are recommended.