By Shirley Pittz, Strengthening Families consultant
Strengthening FamiliesTM is an effort to help families give their children what they need to thrive. It’s about parents taking advantage of their unique strengths and ensuring they have the skills and supports they need to make sure their children – and family as a whole – are safe, secure and happy. The outcomes that Strengthening Families programs strive to achieve are strong families, optimal child development and the prevention of child maltreatment.
Strengthening Families Alaska (SFA) is supported by the Early Childhood Comprehensive System Program (ECCS) in the Department of Health and Social Services and a leadership team consisting of several statewide stakeholder organizations. During FY17, SFA has focused on the Norton Sound Region, Kodiak Island and the Mat-Su Valley. Efforts are underway to embed the Strengthening Families “framework” across agencies and service sectors. In Kodiak, Kodiak Area Native Association (KANA) is leading the way. In the Norton Sound Region it is the Norton Sound Health Corporation and in the Mat-Su Valley it is the Mat-Su Health Foundation.
SFA efforts are supported by the University of Alaska Anchorage Child Welfare Academy (CWA). CWA has several certified trainers who can deliver the two-day intensive Strengthening Families training developed by the National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds. In addition to the regions discussed above, in FY17, training was provided to service providers in Bethel, 30 behavioral health aides at the ANTHC Annual BHS Symposium, RurAL CAP family advocates, Office of Children’s Services grantees, and the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. To date, the CWA has trained over 300 people in this approach!
Primary care providers received some focused attention this year since parents frequently look to them for reassurance and guidance on child and family issues. In November 2016, the All Alaska Pediatric Partnership (A2P2) rolled out a Strengthening Families Toolkit for Primary Care Providers that was developed with funding provided through a grant from Alaska Children’s Trust. An accompanying two-hour training was also developed and offered at the fall Pediatric Symposium in Anchorage. Additionally training on the Toolkit was provided in Juneau and Fairbanks and on a statewide “Learning Network” webinar.
Across the state, communities and providers are embedding the Strengthening Families approach in the work that they do. “Small but significant” changes in everyday practice can make a huge difference for families.
Strengthening Families is built around five “protective factors.” Protective factors help families succeed and thrive, even in the face of risk and challenges. The protective factors are:
Parental Resilience – Be Strong Even When You Are Stressed!
- Resilience is the process of managing stress and functioning well even when things are difficult.
Social Connections – Get and Give Support!
- Sometimes being a parent can be very stressful. It’s easier to handle parenting challenges when we have positive relationships with family, friends and neighbors. Having a network of caring people in our life helps us feel secure, confident and empowered – and this helps us become better parents.
Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development – Learn More So You Can Parent Better!
- There is no such thing as a perfect parent, but knowing what to expect does make the job a lot easier.
Concrete Support in Times of Need – Get Help When You Need It!
- All families go through tough times. However, knowing where to get help in the community can make things a lot easier.
Social & Emotional Competence – Help Your Child Manage Feelings and Relationships!
- Helping children develop social-emotional competence allows them to manage their emotions and build healthy relationships with their peers and adults. The things we do to model and help our children learn these skills makes a huge difference.
For more information about Strengthening Families Alaska and how you might get involved, please contact one of the following:
- Tracy Spartz-Campbell, State of Alaska Strengthening Families Program, firstname.lastname@example.org, (907) 465-4894
- Tammy Sandoval, Child Welfare Academy, email@example.com, (907) 786-6731
- Amanda Sanford, KANA , firstname.lastname@example.org, (907) 485-1357
- Theodora Heihn, Norton Sound Health Corporation, email@example.com, (907) 443-3462
- Betsy Smith, R.O.C.K. Mat-Su, firstname.lastname@example.org, (907) 317-1896
For more information about the Strengthening FamiliesTM approach, visit the Center for the Study for Social Policy website.