Strengthening Families and Protective Factors

Strengthening Families

Strengthening Families is a framework developed by Center for the Study of Social Policy over the last decade to prevent child abuse and neglect. This approach helps child welfare systems, early education and other programs work with parents to build protective factors.

These protective factors are:

To embed these protective factors into existing programs and systems, Center for the Study of Social Policy works with national organizations, states and federal partners. Children’s Trust is the partner in South Carolina.

The network is a forum for sharing knowledge and tools. Strengthening Families offers an extensive electronic library of research and information about programs that work, as well as a database of training opportunities across the country. Children’s Trust participates in learning circles, where we work with similar organizations to develop and implement action plans.

Larry Brendtro

Deep Brain Learning: Transforming Lives

Dr. Larry Brendtro, a nationally renowned psychologist and educator, discusses his work in connecting brain research and resilience science as part of his evidence-based approach to positive adolescent development. The director of Resilience Resources, Brendtro makes the latest developments on brain science pertinent and applicable to anyone working with children and families. He translates research in an understandable way while interweaving what professionals have learned from indigenous cultures into examples from his own practices.

Dara Griffin

Importance of Social Connections for Parents

Dara Griffin, the executive vice president for family and community engagement at Be Strong Families, discusses the benefits of the Parent Café model, which brings attendees together for structured conversations about the challenges and rewards of parenting. By encouraging meaningful and reflective dialogue among parents as a way of building strong families and communities, these conversations incorporate the protective factors and promote peer-to-peer learning. Griffin calls the protective factors – resilience, social connections, finding concrete support, knowledge of child development, and emotional competence – something all parents need, regardless of race, economic status, or social status.

Protective Factors

Protective factors are conditions in families and communities that, when present, increase the health and well-being of children and families. They serve as buffers, helping parents who might otherwise be at risk of abusing their children to find resources, supports, or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, even under stress. Protective factors are the “positives” that strengthen all families, not just those at risk, so focusing on building protective factors helps make sure that families do not feel singled out or judged.

For years, researchers have been studying both the risk factors common among families experiencing abuse and neglect and those factors that protect families who are under stress. There is growing interest in understanding the complex ways in which these risk and protective factors interact within the context of a child’s family, community and society, and how they affect both the incidence and consequences of abuse and neglect. For each protective factor, the focus is on helping parents identify and build on their strengths and on empowering them to identify strategies for enhancing their parenting skills.

Parental resilience

How parents cope and problem solve affects their ability to deal effectively with everyday stress or a major crisis. Recognizing the signs of stress and knowing what to do about it can help parents build their capacity to cope. Families are strong and flexible.

Social connections

Identifying ways to help parents expand their social networks and build a broader base of parenting support is very important. Parents with an extensive network of family, friends and neighbors have better support in times of stress. Families need friends.

Concrete supports in times of need

Finding out what basic resources are available in the community and how to access them to address family-specific needs such as childcare, respite, housing, etc. will help families meet their basic needs and allow parents to attend to their role as parents. Families know how to find help.

Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development

Information about what to anticipate as children develop and strategies for effective parenting will help parents learn what to look for at each age and how to help their children reach their full potential. Families know how children grow.

Social and emotional competence of your children

When children respect themselves, they will understand how to respect other people. When they feel powerful, they will not need to struggle for power. By helping young children understand their feelings and develop skills for relating to themselves and others, parents and teachers are consciously planting the seed for a safer, more peaceful, and more vibrant world. Families help children deal with feelings and emotions.

For more information

Strengthening Families
Center for Study of Social Policy

Enhancing Protective Factors
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services