Healthy Families Bridges the Gap for Families
April is National Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Month, a time when child wellness and child welfare organizations across the U.S. elevate the importance of creating systems and programs that put children and families first.
One of the programs that helps prevent child abuse is Healthy Families. Home visitors are living, breathing how-to manuals, supporting parents as they establish nurturing parent-child relationships, develop positive parenting skills, provide safe homes, and learn to support healthy child development. This evidence-based model is rooted in the belief that early nurturing relationships are the foundation for life-long healthy development. Families work to reduce risks and build resiliency so that they can raise healthy children who are ready to learn.
HumanKind’s Healthy Families team has partnered with CASA of Central VA, GRACE, and Safe Families for Children this month celebrating and bringing awareness to Child Abuse Prevention Month. The first week of April, the organizations came together to plant the local Pinwheels for Prevention Garden in downtown Lynchburg.
Here’s a recent story from HumanKind’s Healthy Families program showing the power of home visiting and its impact on the families of our community.
Late last year, Stephanie had a phone call from Child Protective Services regarding a concern with one of her children. Her children were removed in a whirlwind, and Stephanie struggled to know what to do. The children were placed with family members instead of in foster care, but it was tough to arrange visits. Stephanie did all she could working a full-time job and trying to meet her children, but she was understandably discouraged. She went through several different caseworkers with various local agencies, but no one stuck with her long enough to make any real progress.
In March of this year, she met Lindsey with Healthy Families. Lindsey came in and let her know they would work through things together, and Lindsey would provide the support Stephanie needed to reach her goals and hopefully get her children back. Lindsey called the CPS worker and received updates on the family’s case, but as soon as she got off the phone, she realized she would have to act quickly: The worker said that court was next week, and Stephanie would probably not regain custody of her children.
Stephanie asked Lindsey to be present when the children’s Guardian ad litem (GAL) and the CPS worker came by later that week. Lindsey agreed. She listened to each person’s story, advocated for Mom to have a little more time, and agreed to meet everyone in court the next week.
When the court date came, Lindsey and Stephanie were nervous. However, the lawyers and Social Services representatives were able to reach a compromise before going to see the judge: Because Stephanie and Lindsey had already made progress on Stephanie’s goals, and because Stephanie was able to advocate for a different visitation arrangement, she could have a little more time before her case was closed and custody awarded elsewhere. Lindsey met with Stephanie’s family, and they agreed to create a group text chat focusing on the children, discussing things like pickups, drop-offs, and other scheduling arrangements. Lindsey reminded them that they needed to work together to do what was best for the children, and asked the family members to give Mom a chance.
In the past few weeks, Lindsey has seen great growth in Stephanie and the family. Communication between Stephanie and the other caregivers has improved; Stephanie has come up with fun games and routines for her children; and her mental health has improved since she knows she has a second chance at being the primary parent.
The Healthy Families program believes that not discussing challenges with people denies them opportunities for growth; Healthy Families also believes that all people are capable of growing and changing. Lindsey was able to both challenge and support Stephanie in seeing a different future, and was able to help her connect with others. Brene’ Brown said, “Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.” Through connecting community providers and family members, Healthy Families was able to make a difference.
We all have a role in disrupting the cycles of child abuse, neglect, and poverty by strengthening Virginia’s families and communities. Child abuse and neglect are preventable, and all communities benefit when children and families are well supported.
How to get involved
- Wear Blue the month of April to show your support
- Visit the Pinwheel Garden in downtown Lynchburg
- Learn more about how to Prevent Child Abuse in Virginia
- Donate to HumanKind’s Healthy Families of Central Virginia program to provide more home visits to families in need.
Child Abuse and Neglect in Virginia | A Snapshot
July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022
- 52,894 children were reported as possible victims of abuse or neglect in Virginia during State Fiscal Year 2022. Of these, 26,765 went into intervention services providing family assessments – many of these supported by Healthy Families support workers across the state.
- 91,193 persons reported suspected child abuse or neglect to local and state departments of social services. 24% of all reports are filed by educators, 19% by law enforcement, and 11% by mental health professionals.
- 68% of the victims are white, 31% are black, and 2% are Asian
What is Home Visiting?
Voluntary home visiting matches parents with trained professional home visitors to provide information and support during pregnancy and throughout their child’s first five years. Home visits help improve pregnancy outcomes for high-risk women and babies as well as improve children’s health and development and strengthen family functioning.
Benefits of home visiting include:
- Improved parenting skills
- Reduced child behavioral problems
- Improved child intellectual development
- Improved maternal employment and education
- Reduced postpartum/postnatal depression
- Reduced frequency of unintentional injuries among children
- Enhanced quality of social supports to mothers
- Improved rates of breastfeeding
For Parenting Help: Call 1-800-CHILDREN
Report Suspected Child Abuse: Call 1-800-552-7096