Building strong families takes nurturing communities

“Each one of us can help prevent this epidemic by stepping up to build a more nurturing community.” – Prevent Child Abuse Habersham Executive Director Jennifer Stein

Editor’s Note: The recent arrest of a Cornelia mother in the death of her child hit this community hard. People expressed outrage and sadness at the news. Channeling that negative emotion into positive action is needed to prevent such future tragedies. Now Habersham reached out to a local expert for advice on how we can do that. Jennifer Stein is the executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Habersham which operates the Family Resource Center of Northeast Georgia in Clarkesville. The views expressed in this commentary are hers.

When tragedy hits home, we react, looking for answers unable to comprehend what it takes for a parent to hurt her baby to such an extent that their injuries are fatal. It is only three months into the New Year, and already two babies have succumbed to fatal injuries; one was an unfortunate accident related to co-sleeping and the other made headlines last week. A third is fighting for its life in an Atlanta hospital.

Reacting with anger and placing blame where we stereotype families by race, age or socioeconomic status only divides us further when the greatest tool we have to prevent infant death is a more nurturing community. This takes all of us breaking down the age-old misconception of families keeping to themselves and parenting in isolation. Child welfare is not child protective service’s burden to carry alone. Expecting the government to fix all of the aftermath caused by generations of adverse childhood experiences is like using buckets to bail water out of a sinking boat.

We are accustomed to turning a blind eye to differences or passing judgment before we know the scope of challenges a family is facing. These differences include physical appearances, speech, age of parents, number of children in a family, parental relationships, parental academic achievement, behavior of their children, engagement in their child’s education, attendance at church, or the ability to provide for their family. These differences also represent risk-factors, and when left unsupported leave families and their children in jeopardy of injury or neglect.

“We comment on the notion that children don’t come with instruction manuals, but today they actually do.”

Each one of us can help prevent this epidemic by stepping up to build a more nurturing community. Child maltreatment happens in homes across all races and socioeconomic status and will continue for generations to come if we don’t change our perspective, behavior, and approach to child rearing.

There is hope for future generations if today we start planting the seeds that strengthen a family’s protective factors. Simply put, if we help improve a family’s social connections, improve their knowledge of parenting and child development, increase their access to community resources, strengthen their resilience, and support their ability to teach their children how to build healthy peer relationships we will over time reduce child maltreatment one family at a time.

We comment on the notion that children don’t come with instruction manuals, but today they actually do. Decades of scientific studies have brought parents actual instruction manuals that have proven evidence-based strategies. Bygone are the days of parenting by trial and error—potentially leaving behind future-broken adults struggling to function and cope from the aftermath of their own childhood.

“…parenting is best achieved with the help of an entire community cheering them on and participating.”

There is hope for our community, for Prevent Child Abuse Habersham’s Family Resource Center of Northeast Georgia is one of a small handful of family resource centers scattered across the entire state. Our key initiative is creating and sustaining healthy families and healthy communities. Through our universal access, a warm home-like atmosphere accompanies each of our services that were carefully crafted to help families raise their children with confidence and competence. Our Positive Parenting Program courses, Parent Café groups, Life Skills for Thriving Families workshops, children’s Music Therapy, Let’s Talk open discussion group, therapeutic counseling services, and an upcoming summer teen outdoors group are slowly changing the perception of parenting supports. So, parents benefit immensely from being plugged in to these free parent and child activities.

With your help, we can help all caregivers realize that parenting is best achieved with the help of an entire community cheering them on and participating.

Please, come visit to learn more about the classes and groups offered at the Family Resource Center, and please share one of these with a parent or a caregiver you know. I encourage you to reach out and provide a break for a new mom that may be overwhelmed.

Our doors will be open next Thursday, April 25th, for our Crusader for Children Social Mixer so you can see for yourself the warmth and love we give freely to all of our participating families. RSVP on our website: www.frcofneg.org or call: 706-778-3100.

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