The Strengthening Families Network: “This is really a place of growth.”

The Strengthening Families Network: “This is really a place of growth.”

The Strengthening Families Network is a learning community for professionals across sectors to stay on top of new research and best practices related to the protective factors. The network is funded by the Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC), and Illuminate Colorado has provided backbone support since 2021. Aaron Miller, Teri Haymond, and Anne Auld are the three trichairs, providing leadership to the Network’s quarterly meetings. 

The Strengthening Families Network provides a space to share and learn about exciting work relating to the protective factors. Each meeting brings new speakers, presentations, rich discussion, and learning opportunities. 

Since 2007, the Network has been bringing together professionals from across Colorado in a space that encourages continuous learning about the protective factors and how they show up in professionals’ work.

Currently, the Family Resource Center Association, CDEC, and Illuminate Colorado collaborate to plan meetings and develop meeting content for the Network. In February, the Strengthening Families Network heard from a 2018 Strengthening Colorado Families and Communities Conference speaker about an update on a tool she had created. Then, in May, the group created space for connections and community building. The next meeting, on August 7th, will  focus on maximizing the various spaces across Colorado where multiple systems are collaborating to support families. These are just a few examples of how the Network works to holistically strengthen professionals, from continuously building upon knowledge of the protective factors to growing social connections between colleagues. The ultimate goal is to support professionals in embedding the Protective Factors Framework into all levels of work from direct service, to team dynamics, to organizational policies, and straight into local communities.  

“This is a space that feeds people in a way that is hard to come by in work environments right now.”

Says Anne Auld, Deputy Director of Illuminate Colorado.

“People can show up as themselves, learn something…it’s really a place of growth.”

The Strengthening Families Network has been such a great success that it sparked the launch of the Strengthening Colorado Families and Communities Conference (SCFCC). The SCFCC was started in 2014, takes place every two years, and is a joint collaboration across the family support continuum, from prevention and public health through restoration and child welfare with a focus on building the protective factors within organizations and communities. Look for a Save the Date for the 2024 conference coming very soon!

Illuminate Colorado believes in and is committed to building the protective factors– which is exactly what the Strengthening Families Network aims to do for professionals. 

Do you work directly with families and are interested in joining the Strengthening Families Network?

Come to the next meeting and see what it’s all about. 

In this space, you can grow personally and professionally around an understanding of the protective factors, how it applies to your life, and the work that you do. 

202307Aug9:00 am11:00 amColorado Strengthening Families Network9:00 am - 11:00 am(GMT-06:00) View in my timeVirtual Event

The Strengthening Families Network is funded by the Colorado Department of Early Childhood.

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Do You Work with Children and Families? There is a Network Waiting for You.

Do You Work with Children and Families? There is a Network Waiting for You.

Since 2007, Colorado has maintained a commitment to best practices related to the protective factors in communities and families. The Colorado Strengthening Families Network hosts a quarterly online learning community for professionals across sectors in an effort to embed the Protective Factors in the work of child and family serving agencies of all types. 

Colorado Strengthening Families Network

The network is halfway through the year, and we have already had two exciting and impactful meetings, with two to go, as well as the Strengthening Colorado Families and Communities Conference in September. The conference will be the first time in over two years the Network will have the chance to collaborate and socialize together, face to face!

So far this year, the Network has had presentations, and opportunities to collaborate with other family-serving professionals, on grounding in the Protective Factors.

REGISTER TODAY!

Flourishing in Times of Change
September 19-21, 2022
Pueblo, CO

In the 2021 Strengthening Families Network Survey we learned there are many new members of the Network with an interest in better understanding the foundational history of the Protective Factors and how they are being utilized in Colorado. So, we began the year by Gail Mendes and Kathy Kennedy sharing their vast experiences using and embedding the Protective Factors into their work. The large group had time to network and share in small groups how the Protective Factors are present in their local communities.

If you are looking for a refresher on the history of the Network and/or an introduction to the Protective Factors, the recording includes a presentation on both. The recording of February’s network meeting can be found here.

In May, we had a visit from our friends at the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) on new and innovative ways to embed the Protective Factors into practice. Here is the link to view the recording of the presentation which included a discussion of Youth Thrive, an initiative of the Center for the Study of Social Policy. It is the companion framework to Strengthening Families that focuses on older children, adolescents, and young adults (ages 9-26).

Youth Thrive believes that all young people should be valued, loved, and supported to reach their goals. To achieve this, Youth Thrive works with youth-serving systems, community-based organizations, advocates, and other partners across the country. Our shared goal is to improve policies, programs, and practices so that they build on what we know about adolescent development, value young people’s perspectives, and give youth opportunities to succeed. Kaysie Getty and Francie Zimmerman, two staff members from Youth Thrive, shared a brief overview of the Youth Thrive protective factors and a variety of strategies, tools, and resources for partnering with young people to support their healthy development and promote well-being.

The August network meeting is canceled in lieu of the Strengthening Colorado Families and Communities Conference in September. In November, we will reconvene online and discuss takeaways from the conference, and share how we are individually and collectively taking care of ourselves, our coworkers and the families we serve. Self-care is more than a slogan. It is actively taking time to regroup, destress and ensure we are able to show up as the best versions of ourselves in both personal and professional settings. Don’t worry if you didn’t have a chance to attend the conference! There will be tips and techniques you can start incorporating right away. 

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We are always happy to welcome new faces, new professions and professionals. And, regardless of what work you do in or out of the home, if this sounds interesting to you, we would love to see you! For more information on attending the remaining meetings, visit our website. For more information on the Strengthening Colorado Families and Communities Conference, visit the conference website

About the Author

About the Author

Anne Auld is the director of education for Illuminate Colorado. Auld has worked with children and families for more than 20 years, training parents, professionals and community members on subjects including strengthening families, safe storage, child sexual abuse prevention and much more.

Back to BCEs – Strengthening Families through Benevolent Childhood Experiences

Back to BCEs – Strengthening Families through Benevolent Childhood Experiences

Having studied Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) for many years, Dr. Angela Narayan, an assistant professor in the clinical child psychology doctoral program in the Department of Psychology at the University of Denver, felt like the field of child abuse prevention research was missing half the story by not also considering the impact of positive childhood experiences.  

Today, Dr. Narayan and the Promoting Resilience in Offspring and Targeting Early Childhood Trajectories (PROTECT) Lab at the University of Denver are leading a research effort focused on Protective Factors. The PROTECT Lab and their efficient yet effective methodologies for research and clinical purposes are working to assess the richness of behaviors, relationships and representations in parents and children – with a particular interest in instruments that can assess resilience processes in ethnically-diverse families.

One line of their work focuses on developing and validating the Benevolent Childhood Experiences (BCEs) scale, a 10-item checklist of favorable childhood experiences, relationships and resources that was first created and published by Dr. Narayan and colleagues in an article titled “Positive Childhood Experiences Predict Less Psychopathology and Stress in Pregnant Women with Childhood Adversity: A Pilot Study of the Benevolent Childhood Experiences Scale” (Narayan et al., 2017, Child Abuse and Neglect).

Benevolent Childhood Experiences (BCEs) are a counterpoint to ACEs, particularly useful to those in community mental health, pediatric and primary care screening and home visiting programs. After accounting for demographics and ACEs, this research has shown higher levels of BCEs significantly predict lower levels of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. This research also found that when someone experienced ACEs and not BCEs, there was evidence of aggressive behavior, alcohol abuse and substance use.

This BCEs research has highlighted “the pregnancy period as an opportune window to help buffer the transmission of trauma in families who are at risk for various types of adversity,” said Narayan during her keynote at the 2020 Strengthening Colorado Communities and Families Conference. The BCEs Screening Tool to build resilience in children and families’ lives features ten simple questions found to be culturally sensitive and applicable across a variety of demographic and socio-economic audiences.

If people working with children and families begin to incorporate the FREE BCEs screening tool, there is great potential to prevent child maltreatment and future chronic health problems, mental illness and substance misuse in adulthood, found to be present in the lives of adults who experienced a high number of adverse childhood experiences.

Dr. Angela Narayan

Dr. Angela Narayan

Assistant Professor, University of Denver

Dr. Angela Narayan is an assistant professor in the clinical child psychology doctoral program in the Department of Psychology at the University of Denver.

Narayan directs the Promoting Resilience in Offspring and Targeting Early Childhood Trajectories (PROTECT) Lab at the University of Denver examining the intergenerational transmission of risk and resilience from parents to children, with a particular focus on the perinatal period as a window of opportunity to buffer the transmission of trauma and promote resilience in both mothers and fathers, and their children. 

Strengthening Families Network

Illuminate Colorado coordinates the Colorado Strengthening Families Network, hosting a quarterly online learning community for professionals across sectors to stay on top of new research and best practices related to the protective factors.

Join the network to get invites to meetings and connect with others to share your work and learn from communities all across Colorado.

Strengthening Families Network Meeting

Monday, November 1, 2021

9am-11am

Virtual

Strengthening Families Network Gets Back to BCEs

Dr. Narayan will join the November 1, 2021 Strengthening Families Network meeting to deliver a refresher on the BCEs tools, share new findings and provide an opportunity for attendees to discuss with peers how this research can be incorporated into the work they are doing with families to increase Protective Factors. During the November meeting, Dr. Narayan is also planning to discuss a conceptual framework for understanding intergenerational prevention strategies for deterring ACEs in families. Those who attend the meeting will have an opportunity to visit with Dr. Narayan in a smaller online setting, which will allow for questions and scenario work to improve application of how incorporating BCEs can strengthen families.

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