Strengthening Families by Enhancing Protective Factors

By: Susan Roman, RN, MPH

Connecticut Children’s Center for Care Coordination (the Center) is committed to strengthening families and communities. The Center has fully embraced the Strengthening Families framework, developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), based in Washington D.C. The framework is a research-informed approach which enhances protective factors in families by increasing their strengths, combating the effects of toxic stress and reducing the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. The framework focuses on engaging all families, programs and communities in five areas: boosting parental resilience, building parents’ social connections, enhancing knowledge of parenting and child development, providing families with concrete support in times of need, and increasing the social and emotional competence of children.

The approach was initially presented to our program, and other Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health (the Office) programs, by Eminet Gurganus, program development and implementation manager for the Office, in 2015. What started out as an opportunity to discuss our work within the context of a common language, and how best to support our families, has since become a rallying cry for best practices in care coordination across the state.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) recognized the critical importance of this framework and provided the Center with funding to educate others about the strength-based approach. Two of our employees, Katherine Ramirez, MS, and Allison Matthews-Wilson, LCSW, became the first trainers in Connecticut to be certified by the National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds (the Alliance) as Strengthening Families framework instructors.

Since becoming certified trainers, Ramirez and Matthews-Wilson have trained DPH staff to utilize the framework in their work. In addition, they provided training to participants in the state’s five regional care coordination collaboratives, which are overseen by DPH and are based on a model launched by the Center in 2010 to jointly problem solve and decrease the duplication of services offered to families.

Ramirez and Matthews-Wilson have also trained all Center staff to utilize the framework in their work with children and families. Now, our staff members are reviewing our practices to determine which of our techniques are effective and what program changes need to be made to improve efforts to include protective factors in our work.

Ramirez and Matthews-Wilson are also planning to offer additional training for other Connecticut Children’s employees. Our Center has received generous support from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving to assist us in providing training for outside professionals and organizations.

“The reality is that all families face adversity and hard times. These risk factors don’t define you, but protective factors do,” says Ramirez.

Our Center is excited to be able to offer this training. Anyone who works with children and families can benefit from it as it will provide them with the tools necessary to strengthen families by boosting the protective factors known to enhance health outcomes. The training is comprehensive and can be customized to suit a particular group or organization’s needs. Participants will learn practical skills that they can utilize daily in their work with children and families to enhance the quality of care they provide.

“It’s all about making small but significant changes,” says Matthews-Wilson.

Ramirez and Matthews-Wilson will present the framework to participants at our second annual Care Coordination Forum on May 3, 2017. For more information on training opportunities and associated training costs, contact Connecticut Children’s Center for Care Coordination at 860-837-6200.

Susan Roman, RN, MPH, is the program director for the Connecticut Children’s Center for Care Coordination.

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