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Program Highlight – Strengthening Families Program (SFP)

catholiccharitiesofmadison.orgFor the last two years, Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition has been offering, at no cost to families, the Strengthening the Families Program (SFP) family skills classes. We are currently in the middle of our 2015 class. We believe that in order to help strengthen our communities, it is important to focus on the foundation that our children grow from, and that is the family.

For approximately 5 years in a previous lifetime/career, I worked with the State of Nebraska and Alaska as a Child Protective Service (CPS) worker. My experiences working with families in the midst of crisis gave me insight to several risk factors that contributed to the situations that a large majority of the families found themselves in.

Most of the families were islands unto themselves, they had burned so many bridges that parents, siblings, friends… no longer wanted anything to do with them, life’s stresses built up to a point where they no longer were able to deal with them and they had no one to turn to for help. I speak of families that found their way into the judicial system based upon their choices and life’s circumstances, but one thing we were taught as CPS workers is that we are ALL susceptible to something like this happening. It doesn’t matter our economic status, race, ethnicity, religion etc.

I know that a lot of people think that these type of classes are just for people who already have issues, but the truth is that life happens to all of us, and the best way to prepare yourself is to always be learning new things, so that you are ready with the necessary skills before things get out of control.

Strengthening Families classes are a great way to get to know your child and for them to get to know you. One reason that our agency chose the SFP program over many other parenting programs is because most of the other programs only focused on the parents, SFP is a two hour course in which the first hour the parents and youth are in separate classrooms learning separate but similar lessons, and in the second hour the youth and parents come back together to practice what they have learned.

The SFP is also an evidence-based program which has gone through rigorous protocols and testing to gauge the effectiveness of the program. The Strengthening Families Program helps to strengthen the following protective factors of youth, parents and families:

Parental Resilience:

No one can eliminate stress from parenting, but a parent’s capacity for resilience can affect how a parent deals with stress. Resilience is the ability to manage and bounce back from all types of challenges that emerge in every family’s life. It means finding ways to solve problems, building and sustaining trusting relationships including relationships with your own child, and knowing how to seek help when necessary.

Social Connections:

Friends, family members, neighbors and community members provide emotional support, help solve problems, offer parenting advice and give concrete assistance to parents. Networks of support are essential to parents and also offer opportunities for people to “give back”, an important part of self- esteem as well as a benefit for the community. Isolated families may need extra help in reaching out to build positive relationships.

Concrete Support in Times of Need:

Meeting basic economic needs like food, shelter, clothing and health care is essential for families to thrive. Likewise, when families encounter a crisis such as domestic violence, mental illness or substance abuse, adequate services and supports need to be in place to provide stability, treatment and help for family members to get through the crisis.

Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development:

Accurate information about child development and appropriate expectations for children’s behavior at every age help parents see their children and youth in a positive light and promote their healthy development. Information can come from many sources, including family members as well as parent education classes and surfing the internet. Studies show information is most effective when it comes at the precise time parents need it to understand their own children.

Parents who experienced harsh discipline or other negative childhood experiences may need extra help to change the parenting patterns they learned as children.

Social and Emotional Competence of Children:

Research studies support the common-sense notion that when these Protective Factors are well established in a family, the likelihood of child abuse and neglect diminishes. Research shows that these protective factors are also “promotive” factors that build family strengths and a family environment that promotes optimal child and youth development.

A child or youth’s ability to interact positively with others, self-regulate their behavior and effectively communicate their feelings has a positive impact on their relationships with their family, other adults, and peers. Challenging behaviors or delayed developments create extra stress for families, so early identification and assistance for both parents and children can head off negative results and keep development on track.

If you would like to learn more about the Strengthening Families Program give us a call at 402-346-0902 extension 219 or 201.

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