In 2001, with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Center for the Study of Social Policy began studying the role early care and education programs can play in strengthening families and preventing abuse and neglect. The study linked research about preventing child abuse and neglect with similar knowledge about quality early care and education. Out of that research came Strengthening Families.
Strengthening Families is a research-based, cost-effective strategy to increase family strengths, enhance child development and reduce child abuse and neglect. It focuses on building five Protective Factors that also promote healthy outcomes. Those five protective factors are parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support in times of need and social and emotional competence of children.
“Strengthening Families” happens when communities and families, institutions, and organizations:
• focus on building protective factors to reduce risk and create optimal outcomes for children, youth and families
• recognize and support parents as decision makers and leaders
• value the culture and unique assets of each family
• are mutually responsible for better outcomes for children, youth and families
Community Partnership has been assisting child care programs with a Strengthening Families self assessment over the past few years. Programs determine how well they are “strengthening families” through making connections, providing parent education, building the social and emotional competency of children, and identifying families who are in real crisis. This awareness is helpful to some, but many programs are unsure of where to go from there. Most programs are so busy with the day to day business of running a child care program that they neglect the higher level ideas to help families. Through some self-reflection and commitment, the opportunities to make a difference are just around the corner, and the consequences are life changing.
For more information about Strengthening Families, visit www.strengtheningfamilies.net. If a program is interested in continuing to strengthen families and reduce child abuse and neglect, they should complete the self assessment. After completion, contact our Early Childhood Division to schedule a time to discuss goal setting and implementing the strategies from the Strengthening Families Framework.