Strengthening Families™ is a research-informed framework and approach to preventing child abuse and neglect. Developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, this approach focuses on family and community strengths and Protective Factors rather than risk factors. Protective Factors are what helps children and families thrive despite whatever risk factors they might face. Protective factors aren’t just for families that are at risk for child abuse and neglect because all families benefit from having strong protective factors.
Prevent Child Abuse Georgia is pleased to support the implementation of the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework by leading a statewide partnership, providing support to organizations embedding the framework and delivering trainings to parents and professionals.
What is Resilience?
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from or push through life’s difficulties. It can be described as determination, toughness, optimism, faith, and hope. Using the Protective Factors to build resilience is how we strengthen families and improve the health and wellness of children.
What does this look like?
• Children have close relationships with caregivers or other caring adults
• Caregivers have resilience to bounce back
• Caregivers use positive parenting skills
• Communities have a sense of purpose (through faith, culture, identity, etc.)
• There are opportunities to connect socially
• Practical support services for parents and families are available
Resilience in Caregivers
Caregivers who can cope with the stresses of everyday life, as well an occasional crisis, have resilience; they have the flexibility and inner strength necessary to bounce back when things are not going well. Multiple life stressors, such as a family history of abuse or neglect, health problems, marital conflict, or domestic or community violence—and financial stressors such as unemployment, poverty, and homelessness—may reduce a parent’s capacity to cope effectively with the typical day-to-day stresses of raising children.
Resilience in Children
Children aren’t necessarily born with resilience, but scientists now believe that certain children have higher levels of resilience. But the good news for all children is that resilience is like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it grows, especially in very young children.
How do We Grow Resilience? Children learn resilience from external influences such as their family, caregivers and the community around them. Protective Factors and positive childhood experiences help explain why some people who experience adversity as children fare well in adulthood.
- American Psychiatric Association– Defining and Cultivating Resilience
- HOPE (Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences) – a new way of seeing and talking about experiences that support children’s growth and development into healthy, resilient adults
- Children’s Trust Fund Alliance – Parental Resilience One-Pager
- The Center for the Study of Social Policy Parental Resilience Action Guide
- Mindful- How to Be A Resilient Parent
Social Connections – Positive relationships that provide emotional, informational, instrumental and spiritual support.
Caregivers with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family, and neighbors often find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves. Most parents need people they can call on once in a while when they need a sympathetic listener, advice, or concrete support. Research has shown that caregivers who are isolated, with few social connections, are at higher risk for child abuse and neglect. A 2023 report by the U.S. Surgeon General, outlines the damaging impact of social isolation and greater need for social connections and community.
Networks of support are essential to caregivers and also offer opportunities for people to “give back”, an important part of self- esteem as well as a benefit for the community.
Resilience Buffers Adverse Childhood Experience
When caregivers and especially children have supportive relationships, concrete supports, and social and emotional competence, they are better able to cope with adverse experiences they may encounter.
By forming positive relationships, community members can work together to build a resilient, vibrant neighborhood and create opportunities to further integrate the Protective Factors. Safe communities can provide a buffer for children against adverse childhood and community experiences. These children then build resilience! There are many ways Protective Factors are being utilized within Georgia communities.
Learn more by:
Knowledge of Parenting and Child and Youth Development – Parents Know How Children and Youth Grow and Learn
Parents who understand the basics of child development have more realistic expectations of their children. These parents are better equipped to provide an appropriate amount of nurturing, supervision, and guidance. When parents understand their roles in their children’s lives and learn about specific parenting techniques and strategies, they can form positive relationships with their children and have options for appropriate responses to typical child behaviors.
Social and Emotional Competence of Children – Family and child interactions that help children develop the ability to communicate
clearly, recognize and regulate their emotions and establish and maintain relationships. A child’s relationship with a consistent, caring adult in the early years is associated later in life with better academic grades, healthier behaviors, more positive peer interactions and an increased ability to cope with stress. Set the example by using words and having conversations in stressful moments, replace negative communication with neutral, problem solving, and empathetic encouraging ones (YES, this takes practice!)
Empathy is a social-emotional skill and protective factor that develops throughout a child’s life, and an early start can help children be more successful friends, students, and family members. Resources to build children’s empathy and social-emotional skills:
- Help Your Child Develop Empathy
- Educators Can Foster Empathy
- Kids Who Care About the Common Good
- Managing Emotions PBS Kids toolkit
- Connections Matter Georgia, Training for Adults
Helping Students Have the Conversation About Social Emotional Well-Being
Promoting the social emotional well-being of children and youth is a primary concern of both educators and families. As we work to develop practices and make programmatic decisions that support positive school climate, it is important to remember that helping students enhance interpersonal relationships is also critical. The infographic, “Seven Super Skills to Help a Friend in Need,” was created for Mental Health First Aid by the National Council for Behavioral Health. Developing expectations that promote internal competencies of this nature can empower students to care for others as well as themselves.
Social and Emotional Resources
- National Association for the Education of Young Children – Social & Emotional Development Resources
- Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL)
- Committee for Children – Social Emotional Learning
Concrete Support in Times of Need – Access to concrete support and services that address a family’s needs and help minimize stress caused by challenges.
All caregivers can use a little help from their friends and communities. Even in the best of circumstances, parents need help with day-to-day childcare, help figuring out how to soothe a colicky baby, help getting to the emergency room after an accident, and help managing their emotions when a stressful event occurs. When faced with additional stresses such as losing a job, eviction, addition, not being able to feed their family, or trauma, parents need access to concrete family support and services to address these needs and minimize stress.
One good way to help a struggling family is to offer assistance in identifying, finding, and getting concrete support. When faced with overwhelmingly stressful conditions, we all need support. But seeking out help is always not an easy thing to do. Keep in mind that admitting we need help can feel like an admission of incompetence or that we are unable to solve our own problems or take care of ourselves and our families. While some fear others’ judgment, other caregivers may not seek family support because they don’t know where to go or how to find the services they need.
FindHelpGA.org is a centralized way to access community resources throughout the state. Find Help Georgia is available to caregivers and professionals looking for supportive resources and referrals.
Help seekers can search for resources: downloading the mobile app (Apple or Google Play), entering a keyword or ZIP code on FindHelpGA.org, or using an online chat or calling to speak with a Find Help Georgia Specialist toll free at 1-800-244-5373, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.
Everyday Actions that Support Families
- Ensure families feel supported and validated when asking for help.
- Respond immediately- provide information and connections.
- Help families to develop skills & tools they need to identify their needs & connect to supports.
- Build relationships with families so they share challenges.
- The Center for the Study of Social Policy Knowledge of Child Development Action Guide
- National Association for the Education of Young Children – Tips for Child Development in Practice
- Zero to Three – Resources for Child Development
- Children’s Trust Fund Alliance – Knowledge of Child Development One-Pager
- Better Brains for Babies Georgia
- The ABC’s of Child Development & The Child Development Tracker www.pbs.org
- Child Developmental Milestones Checklist, Training Videos and Free Children’s Books (Learn the Signs. Act Early.) https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/
- CDC’s Milestone Tracker app, free and parent-friendly, is designed to track and celebrate your young child’s development from ages 2 months through 5 years, see photos and videos that illustrate milestones, try new activities to support your child’s early development, get helpful reminders for appointments, and more! Get information on downloading the app online. The app is available in the App Store and on Google Play.
- Child Development and Positive Parenting Tips for each stage of development https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/index.html
- DOE’s Parent Engagement and Transition to Kindergarten for Parents http://www.gadoe.org/School-Improvement/Federal-Programs/Pages/School-Transition.aspx
- Great Start Georgia https://www.greatstartgeorgia.org/
- Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – Strong4Life http://www.strong4life.com/
SFG Community Café Facilitator Trainings
Community Cafés are conversations among caregivers about what it takes to keep their families strong. Community Cafés can take place in early childhood centers or other friendly environments, and they’re a safe place to talk about the “hard stuff.” Trained facilitators lead the discussion as caregiver participants explore questions that really matter—about taking care of yourself, raising strong children, and building strong relationships with your children. The Community Café model is based on the World Café model for engaging people in conversations that matter.
SFG’s Community Café Facilitator Training offers:
- Techniques to facilitate Community Cafés to help families increase awareness and use of the five Protective Factors
- An approach for engaging caregivers and families in conversations about themselves and their children
- A method for building protective factors in families
- An opportunity for developing parent leadership
No professional training background is needed. Participants are required to complete the “Bringing the Protective Factors Framework to Life In Your Work” training module prior to attending the Community Café Facilitator Training. Participants are expected to conduct two Community Cafés within a year of attending the training.
Upcoming Virtual Training
Dates for 2024 will be announced soon.
For questions contact [email protected]
REGISTER FOR A VIRTUAL 2-HOUR TRAINING
- Providing Concrete Support in Times of Need: Dec 7, 2023 at 10am
- Strengthening Families Overview: February 15, 2024 at 10am
- Building Parental Resilience: April 4, 2024 at 10am
- Helping Parents Build Social Connections: June 20, 2024 at 10am
- Increasing Parental Knowledge of Child Development: August 15, 2024 at 10am
- Growing Social & Emotional Competence in Children: October 24, 2024 at 10am
- Providing Concrete Support in Times of Need: Dec 5, 2024 at 10am
REQUEST A TRAINING
Use the form below to request an in-person or virtual SFG training. Select “Strengthening Families Protective Factors” in the form below along with the Protective Factor Module of your choice.
Training for Professionals
The Leadership Team embodies our mission of utilizing the protective factors framework in all programs and services. The Leadership Team is made up of approximately 20 members and provides direction and guidance for embedding the five protective factors in all areas of related work through:
- Policy and systems changes
- Data driven decision-making
- Integration and prioritization
- Resource identification and leverage
- Coordination and collaboration with similar state efforts
Contact [email protected] for details on becoming part of SFG’s Leadership.
The Partnership represents a broad range of over 50 partners who help embed Strengthening Families into their work settings and communities. The Partnership is charged with implementing the Strengthening Families Georgia Strategic Plan. To attend meetings and be actively involved contact Kendra Cole, Strengthening Families Georgia Statewide Coordinator at [email protected].
View Partner Spotlights
With continued funding and the expertise and support of a multi-disciplinary Leadership Team and Partnership Strengthening Families Georgia has seen steady growth and expansion beyond early childhood, and includes cross-disciplinary efforts and parent partnerships to produce changes in practices and policies. If you are aware of funding opportunities that would be a good fit for SFG or would like to embed the Protective Factors into your organization please contact [email protected].
Supporters though unable to attend meetings and be actively involved, want to remain informed and updated about Strengthening Families Georgia. To receive updates on Strengthening Families Georgia please send your name and email address to [email protected].
Strengthening Families Georgia Coordinator
Kendra Cole, MPA, leads the statewide SFG initiative by working with organizations to embed the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework. Throughout her career, Kendra has supported families through training, coaching, and advocacy. She is a passionate advocate for family well-being and education equity. She has years of experience educating families on topics related to child abuse prevention, family engagement, leadership, and parents as advocates. In previous roles, Kendra led teams in providing high-quality services to children and families.
Strengthening Families Georgia Chair
Debbie Hillman, an Early Childhood Consultant with numerous affiliations, has been elected as the Chair of SFG as of October 2019. Debbie has served on the Leadership Team, as well as the Governance and Strategic Planning Committees, and we look forward to working with her in this new role. She can be reached at [email protected].
As a research-informed approach, Strengthening Families is the product of both foundational and ongoing research and knowledge development.
Strengthening Families is implemented through small but significant changes in daily practice, supported by shifts at the program level that allow workers to make those changes. A number of tools are available to support those shifts in practice.
- SFG Professional Primer
- Ways to Embed Protective Factors in Your Organization
- SFG embedded in other programs– includes protective factors and programs such home visiting, relationship and marriage education, Period of PURPLE Crying and more
- Practice Tools for Child Welfare
- Parent Engagement Toolkit
- The Impact of COVID-19 on Head Start Programs and Families: Recommendations for Health Care Providers and Policymakers