The NJ Strengthening Families Initiative is an approach to preventing child abuse and neglect by strengthening families through the state's early care and education network. This new approach uses early childhood programs to build evidence-based protective factors in children and families, rather than focusing on identification of risk in the home and community.
The framework for the initiative, developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, is based on the recognition that certain protective factors contribute to family resiliency and strength. These protective factors include parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support in times of need, and children who possess strong social and emotional competence.
The Strengthening Families Initiative recognizes that early care and education centers and the child care workers who interact with children and families have close relationships with parents, and that these relationships can play a prominent role in building protective factors in families.
NJSFI promotes seven key strategies that programs and professionals can use to strengthen families:
The Initiative also seeks to prevent or overcome causes of child neglect and abuse that are related to individual factors, including parental isolation, lack of child development knowledge, and mental, physical or financial crises.
The New Jersey Strengthening Families Initiative is lead by the NJSFI Task Force, a public/private partnership of professionals and parents. The Initiative offers mini-grants directly to child care centers to will promote center-based parent support and education projects.
Child care resource and referral staff members in each county have been trained by the NJSFI Task Force regarding how New Jersey's early care professionals can help develop protective factors in families to enable them to provide ongoing training and guidance to the SFI centers in their counties to build on the SFI keystones. To learn more about the NJ Strengthening Families Initiative click here or contact your local CCR&R for a listing of SFI centers in your county.