Many factors affect a family’s ability to care for their children
Families who can meet their own basic needs for food, clothing, housing and transportation—and who know how to access essential services such as childcare, health care and mental health services to address family- specific needs—are better able to ensure the safety and well-being of their children. When families do not have steady financial resources, lack health insurance, or suffer a family crisis such as a natural disaster or the incarceration of a parent, their ability to care for their children may be at risk.
Poverty is associated with greater rates of child abuse and neglect, and families living in poverty often benefit from specific concrete supports, such as help with housing, food, transportation, childcare, clothing, furniture and utilities. Partnering with families to identify and access these resources in the community may help prevent the stress that sometimes precipitates child maltreatment. Providing concrete supports may also help prevent the unintended neglect that sometimes occurs when families are unable to provide for their children.
Families may not always know about community resources or how to access essential services. Language or cultural barriers may make it difficult for some families to identify services and make the necessary contacts. Providing information and connections to concrete supports can be a tremendous help to families under stress or in crisis.
When specific services do not exist in your community, you may be able to work with families or community leaders to help establish them. Families can be powerful advocates for a particular cause, such as low-cost, after- school programs or safe transportation for teens, if they know the process for forming groups and creating services.
You can help in these ways
Linking families with services
- Families may not be aware of services that may help. You can let them know about all available resources, so they may select what is most appropriate for their needs.
- Families are more likely to use culturally appropriate services. If you can link them with a service provider who speaks their language or comes from a similar background, families may feel more comfortable and experience a greater benefit.
- Families with many needs may be overwhelmed by the different requirements for accessing various services.
- A “systems of care” approach may be most useful, in which different helping systems work together to support the family.
Building community services
- Linking families with community leaders and others to organize support, advocacy and consulting groups gives families the opportunity to use their experience to help others.
- Families who go public with their need or cause usually find that they are not alone. The fact that a parent is willing to publicize a need or cause may mobilize the community.
- Families who are new to advocacy may need help connecting with the media, businesses, funding and other parts of the community to have their needs heard and identify solutions.