Reasons I’m HOPEful…

Why are you hopeful for Texas children and families? That’s the question we’re asking as we launch our #TexProtectsHOPEful social media campaign during Child Abuse Prevention Month – and continuing well beyond April! This campaign celebrates the efforts of good people all over the state working to prevent and protect children from abuse and neglect!

We got a great answer from Michelle Heflin of Buckner International, the nonprofit that administers the Project HOPES program in Gregg, Upshur and Harrison Counties. So great, in fact, that it deserves more than just a Tweet, so we present it here as a full blog post. Enjoy!

In July 2014, I welcomed my first child into the world and quickly realized that for the past 10 years of my professional career in social services I may have been giving impractical parenting advice to parents and foster parents. It was not intentional, but when you’re in the parenting trenches and the 2am wake-up cry has you sleep-deprived, you quickly learn it’s a whole other ball game – theory versus practice.

Shortly after my initiation into motherhood, the nonprofit I work for, Buckner International (www.Buckner.org), was awarded the Project HOPES contract in September 2014 for the Texas counties of Gregg, Upshur and Harrison from the Prevention and Early Intervention Division of the Department of Family and Protective Services. We selected the Parents as Teachers home visiting (0-5 yrs.) program, which focuses on parents being the first teacher of the child through developmental milestones and school readiness.

Through the program, I found that the information delivered to families really pertained to being a new parent and parents confirmed their feeling of support by having a plan for those 2am wake-up cries. Accurate information about child development and appropriate expectations for children’s behavior at every age helps parents see their children in a positive light and promote their healthy development.

Why is parent education so important for the prevention of child abuse or maltreatment? Because having (1) Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development is just one of the Five Protective Factors within families.

The other Protective Factors include:

(2) Parental Resilience – No one can eliminate stress from parenting, but a parent’s capacity for resilience can affect how a parent deals with stress.

(3) Social Connections – 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.

(4) Concrete Support in Time of Need – Meeting basic economic needs like food, shelter, clothing and health care is essential for families to thrive.

(5) Social and Emotional Competence of Children – Challenging behaviors or delayed development 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.

There is a correlation between low Protective Factors within families and the prevalence of child abuse or neglect. If we are going to prevent or lower the child abuse rates in our communities and therefore potentially decreasing the need for children to be removed from their home, this is the key.

I’m hopeful for the children in our community because parents that engage with Buckner Project HOPES (www.Buckner.org/Project-HOPES) to increase Protective Factors have also taken on tasks of reaching goals within their family. Goals like obtaining an associate’s degree then moving onto a bachelor’s degree, securing more stable housing, moving from underemployment to a living wage and feeling better prepared to parent.

It has been my observation that many of these goals are accomplished because they first felt successful as a parent! When families are strengthened and are mutually responsible for better outcomes for their children, that is the essence of the meaning of our slogan at Buckner International: “Hope shines here.”®

For more information on Project HOPES, click here.

Tell us in the comments – why are you #TexProtectsHOPEful?

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