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Spring on the York College campus

Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect

By Colleen Karl
"The research shows that having one caring adult in a child's life can make a positive and lasting impact on that child." - Robyn Maitoza, Ph.D.

With eyes tearing up, Robyn Maitoza, Ph.D., a professor of Behavioral Science, wants to help stop child abuse and neglect in our community. “My passion is conducting community-based research because I get to partner with organizations to build ways to improve the overall functioning and well-being of children, youth, and families,” she said. Her goal is to promote healthy familial relationships and when she thinks about the numbers of child abuse cases in our community, she wants to make a real difference.

A couple of years ago, the state came to her with a research opportunity with local schools in the community. York County has one of the highest numbers of substantiated child abuse cases in the state. “York County ranks third in the state, after Allegheny and Philadelphia counties, in child abuse and neglect rates. Despite well-intentioned efforts of many local organizations, our system is failing our kids. Our York City Community of Hope work now involves the coordination of a cross-sector effort among several community organizations who want to improve the outcomes for youth in our city. Community building and data will drive our decisions and efforts,” said Maitoza.

According to previous research, poverty may have a significant correlation with child abuse cases. While not all parents living in poverty abuse their children and many of the cases do not include families living in poverty, it seems that stress generated from poverty is likely to result in strained family relationships. Maitoza explained that “the research shows that having one caring adult in a child’s life can make a positive and lasting impact on that child.”

In her research, Maitoza believes in “using a strengths-based approach instead of a deficit-based one where the thinking is that we need to ‘fix’ people.” She, along with community partners, is working with Hannah Penn School to gather input from local families as to what their needs are as the York City Community of Hope coalition does not want to make any assumptions. The project is about youth and community development, and the piloting of a family resource center at Hannah Penn is an effort to more effectively support the youth and families in this area. The goal is to promote family resilience in an attempt to reduce the rates of child abuse and neglect.

Maitoza plans to continue working with the York City Community of Hope and with students in her classes to strengthen awareness and promote healthier home environments for families in our community.

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