Strengthening Families Pilot for Family Child Care Homes

All families experience stress, but the causes and amounts vary, as does the family’s ability to cope with that stress. Research tells us that when a child experiences stress such as physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, family substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship, it can be truly toxic.

The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP)[1] has identified five research-based Protective Factors, such as parental resiliency and social connections that help strengthen families and protect children from toxic stress. Based on this research, the CSSP developed a framework and tools for helping families build the Protective Factors. It is called the Strengthening Families approach.

Vermont Birth to Five is using the Strengthening Families approach to expand the naturally occurring relationship between home-based child care providers and families. At the heart of this opportunity is the providers’ unique, positive and personal connection with parents. Vermont Birth to Five’s Strengthening Families project builds hub-and-spoke networks where home-based providers receive extensive training in building protective factors, make a strong connection to community resources and help to connect families to needed supports and services.

Our first pilot was launched in 2013 with Lamoille Family Center (LFC) serving as the hub for a cohort of 11 home-based providers. All of the providers completed a pre-pilot Strengthening Families self-assessment survey and developed a program improvement plan. The providers participated in training and reflective practice sessions over nine months.  Participating providers have been connected to other service professionals – meeting with individuals such as a local pediatrician, child care licensor, teacher from alternative high school and representative of the federal food program. This project continues at this time, with the next step to hire a family resource coach to support the participating providers.

Vermont Birth to Five is pleased to announce the funding of six Strengthening Families Projects. These grants, funded by the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge through the Child Development Division, will support ten family child care providers in each of the six regions to partner with a local agency. The agencies that will host the Strengthening Families projects are Child Care Resource in Williston, Northwestern Counseling and Support Services in St Albans, Kingdom Child Care Connection at Umbrella, Inc. in St Johnsbury, Suzy’s Little Peanuts in Springfield, Sunrise Family Resource Center in Bennington, and The Lamoille Family Center in Morrisville. The participating providers will be trained and become proficient in the Strengthening Families framework and will offer comprehensive services to the families of the children in their care. Meanwhile, the providers will receive ongoing support and professional development from the hub agency. Family Child Care Providers have known for decades that they play an important role in the lives of the children that they care for. The Strengthening Families Framework expands the impact that providers can make in children’s lives through supporting their work with parents. Vermont Birth to Five is pleased to partner with the providers and the agencies in this important work.