The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) is coordinating efforts to embed the Strengthening Families™ framework into all child and family service systems in Pennsylvania. State agencies joining the work include Pennsylvania’s Children’s Trust Fund; Department of Welfare’s Office of Children, Youth and Families (Child Welfare) and Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services; Department of Education; Department of Health; Commission on Crime and Delinquency (Juvenile Justice) and Early Intervention Technical Assistance. Other partners include Center for Schools and Communities, Pennsylvania KEYS and Regional KEYS training and technical assistance system for certified child care providers; Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance; Pennsylvania Parent Teacher Association (PTA); Prevent Child Abuse Pennsylvania; American Academy of Pediatrics–Pennsylvania Chapter; Parent Education Network, Child Welfare Resource Center, PA Head Start Association, PA State Afterschool Youth Development Network, county child welfare agencies, local school districts, family centers, intermediate units, and higher education; and United Way.
The leadership team is working to weave Strengthening Families into existing policies, programs and practice across child and family service systems using three key areas where investment in focused work can leverage opportunities to integrate Strengthening Families ideas into a large number of programs and/or have a sustainable impact over time. These key areas are (1) building collaboration across systems, (2) infusing protective factors into professional development and (3) building parent partnerships.
The state leadership team meets quarterly to oversee and guide the integration of the protective factors into all child and family-serving systems. Funding for leadership team activities and staffing are provided through OCDEL and with funding from the Pennsylvania Children’s Trust Fund.
Levers for Change
“Levers for change” are high-level approaches to initiate sweeping and attainable changes in how we support communities and families. The goal is to strengthen families so they are better able to provide children with safe and happy childhoods. The Center for the Study of Social Policy’s (CSSP’s) Strengthening Families initiative has identified three levers for change that help to create the incentives, capacity, and impetus for many more programs to take on a protective-factors approach.
The three levers for change are:
Parent Partnerships. Parent partnerships help ensure that prevention strategies are responsive and relevant to all kinds of family needs and choices; model the relationships among families, service providers, and community resources that can promote the best possible environment for children’s development; and engage parents as active partners. Parent partnerships work when many parents are consistently involved as decision-makers in program planning, implementation, and assessment.
Professional Development. Infusing the protective factors into training for all people who work with children and families helps build a workforce with common knowledge, goals, and language. Professionals at every level, from frontline workers to supervisors and administrators, need protective-factors training that is tailored to their role and imparts a cohesive message focused on strengthening families.
Policy and Systems. A protective-factors approach can serve as a platform for coordination across diverse initiatives and can aid in the development of common language and goals for families in all levels of work. The common focal point is building protective factors in families to prevent maltreatment and promote child well-being. Integrating a protective-factors approach into regulations and procedures that govern everyday practice in child and family services is an effective way to create broad and sustainable change.