Since the 1940s, Volunteers of America Oregon Family Relief Nursery (FRN) has been working to support parents experiencing multiple stressors. Today, our holistic goal continues to be to keep children safe and with their families. This April, Child Abuse Prevention Month, we celebrated how we help to strengthen families and taking the opportunity to recognize the important work that is happening throughout our community.
The FRN team uses a Family Stressors Checklist to gain perspective on what new families may need. Crystal Ross, Program Director at FRN, explains, “stressors can affect everyone in the household, especially children, and increase the likelihood of child abuse and neglect.” Examples of stressors that families may experience include mental health, poverty, involvement in the criminal justice system, houselessness, domestic violence, and food insecurity. FRN typically sees 15 to 18 stressors per family. 90% of families served by FRN live in poverty and all are below the 200% economic poverty line.
FRN provides families with support and resources before maltreatment occurs and is critical to keeping children safe. The Relief Nursery model uses evidence-based strategies to help parents create and foster healthy connections with their children and increase their protective factors.
Protective factors promote the health and well-being of children and families. With this approach, staff can help parents identify their strengths and areas in which they may need additional support and resources. Let’s take a closer look at the protective factors and how they strengthen families.
First, is Parental Resilience. This factor provides parents with tools and knowledge to help increase resiliency. “At FRN, we teach children about self-regulation and coping skills,” explains Crystal. “Parental Resilience means we are also supporting parents with their own coping skills by providing resources and tools that will help them function when facing adversity.” Through the Relief Nursery model, core components include home visitation and parent education. Both focus on helping parents process past and current trauma, stress, and creating goals together that can shift their perspective and help them manage in a crisis.
Social Connection, helping families find an outside support system. The FRN team provides opportunities for parents to socialize with other families through regular parent-child connection and interaction groups. “It is critical for these families who have been isolated to come together and feel connected to one another. Social connection is vital for growth and development, but also overall happiness.”
Concrete Support in Times of Need focuses on bringing Team VOA in to support parents by providing resources, tools, guidance, and whatever they need in a crisis. “We also don’t want to be their only support system,” Crystal points out. For this factor to be successful, “it is important to provide them additional resources through other parents, friends, and community resources who they can reach out to.”
Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development helps parents to understand the developmental milestones their children are going through. FRN provides support in this area by conducting screening assessments that help determine if a child needs more support; providing parents’ home visits and ongoing case management, parent education, and other wrap-around services.
The last factor is Social and Emotional Competency in Children. “We are primarily focused on the social and emotional well-being of children,” shares Crystal. “Our therapeutic classrooms and experienced staff help support children with self-regulation, gross motor skills, social interaction, and connection with their peers.”
At FRN, the team is here to guide parents, to help remove barriers, and lead them on a path that will increase their stability and resilience. “Our goal is to provide tools to parents, knowing they are the experts of their own children, and we can learn together in an environment that is non-judgmental, safe, culturally responsive, and compassionate. We are here to strengthen families.”