In Pennsylvania, the state Strengthening Families Leadership Team (SFLT) is an initiative of the Pennsylvania Children’s Trust Fund and supported by the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), a division of the Department of Public Welfare. The Center for Schools and Communities contracts with OCDEL to facilitate the work of the Strengthening Families Leadership Team which was formed in 2006.
Pennsylvania’s efforts to embed the Strengthening Families approach into family serving systems began with a grant from the National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds. This grant funded the creation of a crosswalk of the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework (SFPF) with the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) National Standards for Family-School Partnerships and the federal Head Start (HS) Family Engagement Outcomes. The goal of this work was to integrate these findings into the Keystone STARS, the quality rating and improvement system for Pennsylvania childcare providers. Though at the time there was not an intentional integration into the Keystone STARS system, this effort introduced a common language to family engagement that focused on supporting parents in a strength-based way.
In 2011, the Strengthening Families Leadership Team, in collaboration with the Center for Schools and Communities and the Pennsylvania Parent Information and Resource Center (PIRC), developed and completed a project entitled Strengthening Families in the Primary Grades, which developed online modules focusing on the Strengthening Families Protective Factors framework for school personnel.
In November 2011, a pilot Community Café, a process for helping organizations gain insight into the strengths and needs of the families they serve through authentic family engagement, was held at the Fulton County Center for Families, a rural area in south central Pennsylvania. Community Cafes are a series of guided conversations, based on the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework, which address leadership development and parent partnership. These conversations are hosted by parent leaders who use the World Café technique to increase community wisdom, build parent voice and facilitate action to improve lives for children. It is a process that is designed, planned and implemented by parents, working with their community partners.
In 2012-2013, the Leadership Team worked on more broadly disseminating the SF Protective Factors framework through public relations activities, developing state-specific evaluation of the SF work to date, and integrating the ideas of various family strengthening and engagement concepts and frameworks, including the Head Start Parent, Family and Community Engagement Framework.
In May 2014, thirty family support professionals participated in a training of trainers to be certified to present the Bringing the Protective Factors Framework to Life in Your Work courses to audiences throughout the state. This training, facilitated by the National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds, provides participants with an “in-person” version of the online training currently available. A plan to disseminate workshops across the state is being developed and a database to capture information about the participants in the courses has been created. The recent Instructor’s Institute built on the existing group of regional KEYS Instructors who were trained in 2010 to offer professional development workshops at the local level to early childhood practitioners.