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Strengthening Families An Effective Approach to Supporting Families

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  1. Strengthening FamiliesAn Effective Approach to Supporting Families BuildingProtective Factors

  2. Agenda A brief history Overview of the Strengthening Families model The Five Protective Factors Framework Seven key strategies that build protective factors Where Do I Start

  3. Objectives Understand the key elements of the National Strengthening Families Framework Gain an understanding and knowledge of building five protective factors with families Gain knowledge of strategies and resources for strengthening each of the protective factors Identify ways your programs are already supporting the development of protective factors in the families you serve. Consider how your programs can help families build protective factors through implementing “seven key strategies.”

  4. Strengthening Families Began as a search for a new approach to child abuse prevention that: • Reaches large • numbers of children • Has impact long before abuse or neglect occurs • Promotes optimal development for all children • CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF SOCIAL POLICY • Is systematic • Is national

  5. What is Strengthening Families? Developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy An approach to working with families based on evidence that when five key protective factors are present: Evidence on what factors reduce child abuse and neglect  Connections between these factors and what effective programs to build protective factors  Policy and practice changes to infuse the model in state and local systems

  6. In the beginning….

  7. Our Vision for the World • We can prevent child abuse, • AND • We can promote optimal healthy growth and development of children. • Mobilizing partners, communities and families to build family strengths, promote optimal development and • reduce child abuse and neglect A world in which children are cherished, families are strong and connected to their communities, and communities thrive.

  8. Strengthening Families Approach Shift the focus from risks and deficits to strengths and resiliency Benefits ALL families Builds on family strengths, buffers risk, and promotes better outcomes Can be implemented through small but significant changes in everyday actions Builds on and can become part of existing programs, strategies, systems and community opportunities Is grounded in research, practice and implementation knowledge

  9. Strengthening Families Focus “On what’s strong, not what’s wrong”. “Families are the compass that guides us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter.” -- Brad Henry “I often think we should change our name from the Office of Child Abuse to the Office of Strengthening Families.” ---Lee Ann Kelly, Assistant Chief of the Office of Child Abuse Prevention, California Department of Social Services, February 2011

  10. Guiding Principles All families have strengths All families need support The Protective Factors support in the prevention of child abuse Implications: Shift focus from family support to family strengthening Protective Factors become core of our community’s strategies Strengthening Families

  11. PURPOSE: REDUCE CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT STARTING WITH CHILDREN 0-5 • The very highest rates of abuse and neglect occur for children under 4. This age group is a third of all children entering foster care and who are likely to stay the longest. • The brain’s primary architecture is developing in years 0-5, when family stability, skills and knowledge have the greatest impact on development. • Adverse experiences at an early age create lifelong risk for multiple problems; mitigating these traumas early is most effective.

  12. Early Care and Education Programs Going where the children are: Daily contact with parents and children Uniquely intimate relationships with families A universal approach of positive encouragement and education for all families An early warning and response system to the first signs of trouble

  13. Five Protective Factors Parental resilience Social connections Concrete support in times of need Knowledge of parenting and child development Social and emotional competence of children

  14. Parental resilience Social and emotional competence of children Stronger families Concrete support in times of need Less abuse and neglect Knowledge of parenting and child development Social connections

  15. A Protective Factors Approach Builds on existing high quality child care and early education Doesn’t ignore the relevance of risk factors in identifying families at risk of abuse and neglect Programs using this approach help families build and draw on their natural support networks which is critical for long term success High-quality care doesn’t necessarily reduce the incidence of child abuse and neglect unless it includes strategies designed to work with families in particular ways

  16. A Protective Factors Approach Protective factors are positive attributes that strengthen all families, and can reach families who are at risk without making them feel singled out or judged Develops partnerships with parents that encourage them to seek out staff if they are in need of extra support Looks for attributes that might serve as buffers, helping parents find alternate resources, supports, or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively under stress. When these factors are present, child maltreatment appears to be less likely to occur.

  17. Strengthening Families Protective Factors • Five protective factors that have common sense appeal while being well grounded in evidence. • Shift focus from family deficits to family strengths and resiliency. • Promote a wide understanding of what programs can do (or are already doing) to promote healthy child development and strong families. • Create a common language and approach in communities and community organizations.

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  19. Parental Resilience “Be strong and flexible” The ability to cope and bounce back from all kinds of challenges. No one can eliminate stress from parenting altogether, but building resilience can affect how a parent deals with stress. Involves creatively solving problems, building trusting relationships, maintaining a positive attitude, and seeking help when needed. Resilience develops within the context of trusting relationships. “Be strong and flexible”

  20. When Parents are Resilient, What Does it Look Like? • Parents become stronger based on all the skills they learn. They can respond to stressful situations in productive ways. • Parents feel supported and able to solve problems. • They are able to develop trusting relationships with others and reach out for help. • Parents are mentally healthy

  21. Parental Resilience The majority of parents who were abused or neglected as children do not abuse or neglect their own children. The single factor most commonly identified that breaks this cycle is the development of empathy for self and others through caring relationships

  22. Parental Resilience • Resilience is a complex thing, and all the skills build on each other • It’s kind of like when we talk about sharing. We want children to learn to share, but we know there are lots of skills that have to come together for a child to really be able to share. • Certain skills and attitudes are building blocks for resiliency. These are things that we can try to help parents build as they go through hard times.

  23. Parental Resilience Take action Make good choices Gather Resources Acknowledge feelings Problem Solve Recognize Challenges Hope Belief System Communication Skills Coping Strategies

  24. How you can build parental resilience • Parental Resilience –Be Strong and Flexible • Show parents: • They are valued • Staff is concerned about them • Help is available • Provide trusting relationships and extra support for those parents who need it. • Remember, it is not your job to “fix” families, instead, get them involved with professionals if they need it.

  25. How you can build parental resilience • Your role is to help build the protective factors for families—when things are fine or when families are stressed that may lead to more serious problems. • Use your daily contact with parents to let them know you care about them. This way, families know they can talk to you if they need help. • Be sensitive to where parents are coming from, and where they are in the building blocks. • Figure out what a parent’s strengths are, and build on those strengths.

  26. Sample Parent Questions  What does resiliency mean to you? How do you keep it going?  Who can I count on in my family, neighborhood or community and why?  When do I know if I need more child development information?  How does it impact my child when basic needs are not met?  What does social and emotional health look like for my child?

  27. Visualization • Proud Moment • How were you feeling? • What was happening in your life at this time? • What kind of day had you had? • How supported or stressed were you feeling? • Lost It Moment • How were you feeling? • What was happening in your life at this time? • What kind of day had you had? • How supported or stressed were you feeling?

  28. Social Connections Social connections are strengthened by creating space and opportunities for parents to connect with other parents. Social isolation is strongly connected to child maltreatment More young families than ever before are living far away from their extended families and need to develop their own social support networks with friends, co-workers, neighbors, and other parents with children of similar ages “Parents Need Friends”

  29. Social Connections • For preventing child abuse and neglect, it’s not just having social connections, but the quality of the connections: • Having someone to talk to and vent frustration, especially about parenting challenges • Connections that help families to access resources – e.g. a friend that will provide babysitting • Opportunities to see other parents parenting – this allows parents to pick up some good techniques and perhaps also recognize some strategies that don’t work • Social networks that include positive norms about parenting – conversations with other parents about the joys of raising children and sharing tips for positive things to do with children

  30. Social Connections “Parents need friends” • Friends, family, neighbors and other members of a community provide emotional support and concrete assistance to parents. • Addresses social isolation…a key risk factor related to child abuse and neglect. • Positive social connections: • Reinforce positive norms about parenting. • Provide assistance in times of need. • Serve as a resource for parenting information or help solving problems.

  31. Social connections See other parents “in action” Talk about children and parenting Give and get advice Vent frustrations SOCIAL SUPPORT Share resources Trade child care Share joys & challenges of parenting

  32. Promoting Social Connections • Provide space in the program where parents can sit or stand and talk for a few minutes, you can promote social connections • Blending educational and social activities • Structured social activities • Tailor some events toward the men in children’s lives:“Daddy and Me” events • Be open to grandfathers, uncles, and other men who are important in children’s lives. • Extend personal invitations to isolated parents

  33. Benefits of Social Connections • How did it feel to talk and hear about these memories? • What, if anything, did your partner do or say that was particular helpful to you in these discussions? • What learning or realization strikes you as you reflect on these two situations? • What did you notice as you compared what was going on in your life at the time of the positive experience to the time of the difficult experience? • In the second situation, the difficult one, what could someone else have done that might have been helpful or supportive to you?

  34. Concrete Support in Times of Need “We all need help sometimes” Parents need access to the types of supports and services that can minimize the stress of difficult situations, such as a family crisis, a condition such as substance abuse, or stress associated with lack of resources. Ensuring the basic needs of a family are met (food, clothing, shelter). Connecting families to services particularly those that may feel more difficult to accept (domestic violence, substance abuse counseling, mental health, etc.).

  35. Support in Times of Need High degrees of stress and low material resources Lack of resources may contribute to depression and low self-esteem Helping families access resources and/or mental health services are shown to reduce abuse and neglect Early care and education staff connect with the everyday lives of families enabling them to connect parents to resources when they most need it


  37. Concrete Support in Times ofNeed • Times of need don’t only occur in families in poverty • All families have times of need, whether it’s at the birth of a new child, health problems, etc. • You can be a resource for the families by helping them access the services they need and letting them know that you can be a source for that information

  38. Concrete Support in Times ofNeed • An important way of intervening before a crisis happens • When a family is unable to meet their basic needs, they cannot focus on less-immediate concerns like positive discipline and helping their child’s development • We can help respond to a crisis: linking them with food, shelter, clothing • They may need assistance with daily needs: health care, education, job opportunities • Services for parents: depression and other mental health issues, domestic violence, substance abuse • Specialized services for children – for example, assessment and services for social-emotional development problems

  39. How you can help families access concrete support • Distribute community resource guides • Invite community partners to share information with families and staff • Refer parents to community resources • Help parents overcome barriers to getting services they need • What do we do when we can’t find a resource for families? • Who can we call to get more resources?

  40. Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development Child abuse and neglect is often related to a lack of understanding of basic child development Inappropriate expectations Respond to children’s behaviors in excessively negative ways Common stresses of childbearing may trigger harsh punishments or episodes of abuse BEING A GREAT PARENT IS PART NATURAL AND PART LEARNED

  41. Knowledge of Parentingand Child Development “Parenting is part natural, part learned” Having accurate information about raising children and appropriate expectations for their behavior helps parents better understand and care for their children. It is important that information is available when parents need it and that it is relevant to their lives. Parents whose own families used harsh discipline techniques or parents of children with developmental or behavioral challenges or special needs often require extra information and support. Parents are more able to learn from people they trust and feel respected by, particularly when they are struggling. Parents learn by education, modeling, and coaching.

  42. Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development Teachable Moments Modeling & Observation Basic Child Development Challenging Behaviors Discipline Alternatives/ Techniques

  43. Knowledge of parenting and child development Basic child Modeling & observation Teachable moments Challenging behaviors Techniques Discipline alternatives

  44. When does a child typically… Become potty trained? Sleep through the night? Help the family out by cleaning up around the house? Walk? Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development

  45. “Typical” Child Development What did you notice during this activity? Where you surprised by anything? What happens when another parent or caregiver doesn’t agree with you? Remember that all children develop differently.

  46. Social Emotional Competence • Promoting social-emotional competence actually refers to activities on three different levels: • All children need opportunities to learn how to relate to others, express their emotions, and solve conflicts. What kids bring home will affect how their parents react to them. • For children who have challenging behaviors, how we respond to that behavior will affect the child’s development and how their parents deal with it. Resolving those behavior problems will promote a healthy, positive relationship between the child and her parents. As provider, we can role modeling that positive responses. • For those children who have experienced trauma, we need to pay special attention to their social-emotional development and help their families get the services they need.

  47. Social Emotional Competence • Social emotional issues of young children are becoming an increasing issue in early care and education settings. • In addition to preparing kids for school and dealing with problems before they get too serious, promoting children’s social-emotional competence also changes how they are parented.

  48. Social and EmotionalCompetence of Children “Help children communicate” • A child’s ability to interact positively with others, self-regulate, and effectively community his or her emotions has a great impact on the parent-child relationship. • Challenging behaviors increase the risk for abuse…working with children early to keep their development on track helps keep them safe. • Children who have greater social and emotional competence have more positive interactions and can put their feelings into words rather than behaviors which helps parents be more responsive and less likely to yell and hit. • Rich programs of early education and care provide added benefits in this area.