Early childhood partnerships in Ketchikan and Homer are using their recent training in the Strengthening Families principles to spread practices that strengthen families.
The basis of Strengthening Families is that certain “protective factors” help make families stronger and better able to deal with whatever life throws at them. The protective factors are parental resilience, social connections, concrete support in times of need, knowledge of parenting and child development, and social and emotional competence of children.
Communities can help build and strengthen these factors and that’s where the partnerships come in. Best Beginnings early childhood partnerships build on the notion that the community has an important role in the growth and development of strong families and children.
Homer Families First is building stronger relationships in Anchor Point by providing programs and services that help strengthen families. There are playgroups for young children to develop healthy social and emotional skills, and for parents to form and strengthen social connections. Also in the works are parenting classes and expansion of Parents as Teachers – all strategies that build protective factors.
Ketchikan’s Early Childhood Leadership Team is working to integrate awareness of protective factors into how young children and families are treated by the court system. Court teams are being organized to involve all parties – judges, prosecutors, Office of Children’s Services, and others who influence legal outcomes in Ketchikan – to resolve families’ underlying problems. To actually change outcomes both from the legal justice system and within Ketchikan’s families will take time. But the Ketchikan Early Childhood Leadership Team is leading the effort through this and other innovative approaches to strengthen the entire community by strengthening families.
The Strengthening Families training for both partnerships was a collaboration of the Alaska Department of Health & Social Services, which provided mini-grants, and Best Beginnings. The two-day training sessions, held last fall, attracted a lot of interest. In both Homer and Ketchikan, the Strengthening Families training was the first time participants had ever met all together. That’s significant, because a basic tenet of early childhood partnerships is that community solutions require an integrated network of interests.
Best Beginnings supports early childhood partnerships all over Alaska. In addition to identifying needs, resources, and opportunities, these partnerships work to improve coordination of programs and services, promote more effective and efficient use of resources and share a commitment to making their community better for young children.