The Personal Security of Children Demands Bold System Reform

Todd I. Herronkohl, Bob Lonne, Daryl Higgins, Deborah Anne Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


In this article, we argue for a new approach to child welfare—one that replaces existing child protection systems beset by scandals and tragedies with broad-scale system realignment that places public health prevention and early intervention at the forefront of efforts to engage, support, and empower families. We explain that the ‘rescue and removal’ orientation that drives policies and practices in contemporary child welfare and child protection systems is deeply flawed in its orientation, lacking in its evidence of effectiveness, and fiscally unsustainable. We point to differential response as one attempt to reform child welfare systems from within, but note that the changes DR brings, while promising, are insufficient to achieve what is required to eradicate child maltreatment and bring about a more just and sustainable practice of promoting the welfare of children. Here, we also share some emerging and encouraging initiatives from around the globe to illustrate the promise of prevention and early intervention approaches—what we call beacons of hope. For the sake of all children, it is time think boldly about the potential that exists in broad-scale, systemic and cross-sectoral reform that fully and unabashedly embraces universal and primary prevention as a means to ensure children’s right to personal security.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-17
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal on Child Maltreatment: Research, Policy and Practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Child maltreatment prevention
  • Child protective services
  • Child welfare
  • Reform
  • Public health

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