Supporting and Strengthening Families
As their children’s first and most important teachers, parents need support to deal with parenting challenges. BUILD Initiative national and state leaders work to ensure that early childhood policies and programs integrate family strengthening into state system building.
With a planning grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, we began a series of BUILD Learning Community events to increase awareness and understanding of the strengthening pioneered by the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP). Extensive research supports the commonsense notion that when five protective factors are present and robust in a family, the likelihood of child abuse and neglect diminish. These five factors are:
- Parental resilience
- Social connections
- Knowledge of parenting and child development
- Concrete support in times of need
- Social and emotional competence of children
BUILD Initiative teams in New Jersey, Minnesota, Michigan and Washington participated in the trial and conducted a preliminary assessment using an expanded assessment tool developed by our staff in conjunction with CSSP.
Since that time, The BUILD state of New York has expanded its focus on family strengthening by establishing a parenting education credential and developing a “new parent kit.” In Washington, early childhood leaders are working to integrate Strengthening Families Washington into family, friend and neighbor care.
Keeping Children Safe from Abuse and Neglect
The best way to protect children from abuse and neglect is to prevent it before it happens. The BUILD Initiative helps states better coordinate services and supports to vulnerable families with the aim of preventing abuse and neglect. We help develop and integrate new innovative practices into their systems. These include home visits to families of infants to teach parenting skills. For example, the BUILD state of New Jersey has funded nonprofits in several counties to provide services to families under financial stress or with mental health issues.
In addition, effective preventive services include providing ongoing screening and support for at-risk families keeps children safe and families together. BUILD Illinois played a key role in developing a process for implementing an early intervention screening and referral system for intact families with children from birth to age three with substantiated cases of abuse in neglect.
And when children need to be removed from their homes, an integrated system of care must continue until the home environment is stable and safe or the child is placed in a more permanent safe, healthy environment.