The Department of Health and Human Services recently published its 2015 Prevention Resource Guide: Making Meaningful Connections. The guide is meant to help service-providers understand the best approaches to child abuse prevention. It begins with an explanation of what child welfare professionals call “protective factors,” which are the opposite of the more commonly heard term, “risk factors”. Protective factors should be encouraged while the other should be alleviated. Yet what exactly is a protective factor?
Protective factors are conditions or attributes of individuals, families, communities, or the larger society that reduce or eliminate risk and promote healthy development and well-being of children and families. These factors help ensure that children and youth function well at home, in school, at work, and in the community, today and into adulthood. Protective factors also can 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.
Most systems identify five protective factors for strengthening families. These are:
- Parental Resilience
- Social Connections
- Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
- Concrete supports
- Social-Emotional Competence of Children
Child abuse prevention, then, looks at strengthening these things and developing programing that aligns with them. While CASA volunteers get involved once child abuse and neglect has already occurred, there is a great deal we can do to prevent it from happening again. For example, in those cases where we work with parents, guardians and other care-takers, it’s possible to help them by being positive and encouraging. If you see someone do something well, take the time to mention it and positively reinforce them. This helps build resiliency, which in turn, helps them feel more confident as a parent, and less likely to become frustrated.
Take a minute to look through some of the resources posted above. They are a great guide for not only helping the families we serve, but for helping any family. If there happens to be any theme for Child Abuse Prevention Month it’s that it takes an entire community.