Using This Election Season to Keep All Families Strong
Common sense and strong research demonstrate that the well-being of parents matters to their children’s social-emotional, physical, and economic well-being, to their children’s educational and life success, and to the strength and stability of families. Research shows that adversity in childhood affects the very architecture of the brain with lifelong implications. Too many families face barriers to opportunities including poor mental health, violence, and economic instability, making it more difficult for their children to grow up physically and emotionally healthy and ultimately leading to greater difficulties learning, entering the workforce, and supporting families of their own. The families with the most challenges deserve consistent support to maintain environments and overcome stressful and traumatic experiences.
Keeping All Families Strong
Families are stable when they are free from violence, substance abuse and mental health challenges; when they have parenting knowledge and skill as well as access to parenting supports; and when they have resources and the skills to get resources including adequate support for work and school. Family stability improves when young adults and parents can build literacy skills, earn a GED, and prepare for a career. Access to quality child care helps to close early learning gaps, protect against poverty-related risk factors, and enable parents to access a job or job preparation. Developmental screening and other assessments provided in child care, early education, and K-12 settings can appropriately engage parents more effectively in their children’s learning and development. Community assessments of needs paired with early and ongoing diagnosis, home-based services and treatment with concrete supports improve child and family outcomes.
Supporting Struggling Families
Caregivers of all kinds need access to services and programs to support their families’ overall success and help maintain family stability, including keeping children and youth out of the foster care system. Behavioral health needs, family violence, economic instability and other stressful conditions create challenges to successful parenting. Access to child abuse and neglect prevention services helps by connecting families to basic needs like stable, safe housing free from domestic violence and food assistance, and provide parents with the skills to handle challenging situations while ensuring that children are safe and healthy in their homes. Opportunities for families to tackle mental health and substance use challenges ensure that adults’ parenting capacities are not compromised and children’s mental health needs are appropriately met.
Responsibility for the Most Vulnerable Children, Youth and Families
Once children and youth are placed away from their families, timely and consistent training and support services are critical for all caregivers (including birth, kin, foster and adoptive parents) to mitigate adversity and create stability and success. When we decide to separate families, we bear the responsibility to definitively say that children and youth, and often their families and caregivers, are doing better with system attention than they would be otherwise, regardless of where they are born or currently living. Youth and family voices are critical to identify and remove barriers to successful family reunification and better educational and life outcomes for those experiencing foster care.
- A Deeper Dive on the Issues and Policies that Matter
- Proven Plays for Policymakers and Champions
- Suggested Questions for Direct Candidate Engagement
- MC Toolkit