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Regional Prevention Plan

The Great Lakes Regional Prevention Plan communicates the Regional Prevention Council’s strategies and funding requests for preventing child abuse and neglect in the four counties of the Great Lakes region.

The plan also summarizes the factors affecting child abuse and neglect in the Great Lakes region and the most pressing needs for families, which were identified during the needs assessment process.

Risk Factors and Needs in the Great Lakes Region

The working group identified several risk factors affecting child abuse and neglect in the region.

Those include:

  • Poverty
  • Unemployment
  • Low level of education
  • Young parent age
  • Substance abuse

Themes of family disconnect, social isolation, and poor communication also emerged. Further research and discussions identified needs in the region for:

  • Substance abuse treatment because of the increasing rates of opioid addiction and the impact that it has on families and child welfare.
  • Parent education to teach at-risk caregivers how to nurture children and strengthen emotional attachments.
  • Concrete support for caregivers to address poverty in the region and aid families in their ability to care for their children.
  • Social support, both formal and informal to help parents cope with stress and improve problem-solving abilities.

Prevention Strategies for the Great Lakes Region

The prevention planning work group suggested working with families to build at-risk families’ strengths in six areas:

  • Nurturing and attachment (infancy through teen years).
  • Knowledge of parenting and child development.
  • Parental resilience (ability to cope with stress, handle crises).
  • Social connections (networks, support).
  • Concrete support for families (meeting basic needs: food, clothing, housing, transportation). Social and emotional competence of children (children's challenging behaviors or social-emotional delays create extra stress for families). From a maltreatment prevention standpoint, these efforts are best aimed at parents or parents and children (rather than children alone), working with parents to identify opportunities to support children in using words and skills to cope with strong emotions, express themselves in words rather than acting out difficult feelings.

Based on the research, the risk factors, and needs identified, the Great Lakes Regional Prevention Council chose to focus on two issues for short-term (defined as 18 months) and long-term (defined as 5 years) prevention strategies.

Fostering Parental Resiliency

This strategy involves improving at-risk caregivers’ ability to effectively manage stressors by:

  • Supporting programs in the region that use a resiliency-oriented approach and increase caregivers’ ability to cope and problem-solve.
  • Ensuring programs and resources reach the most at-risk caregivers in each county to help them manage stress and function in a way that protects children’s well-being even when faced with stress, challenges, and adversity.
  • Assuring the public and social service providers are aware of services and programs available in each of the four counties in the region.

Building and Maintaining Social Support Networks

This strategy involves addressing families’ disconnection and social isolation by improving the caregivers’ engagement with supportive social networks. The strategies for doing this include:

  • Identifying and supporting evidence-based programs and initiatives throughout the region that use a Strengthening Families approach to help at-risk families have healthy, sustained relationships with people, institutions, and the community.
  • Ensuring programs and resources reach the most at-risk caregivers to help them create and maintain strong supportive networks that promote positive parenting.
  • Assuring the public and social services providers are aware of services and programs available in each of the four counties in the region.
  • Creating new or supporting existing efforts to provide peer-to-peer networking opportunities for at-risk families, and/or engage mentors for at-risk caregivers.

Strategies will particularly target caregivers with young children under age 6, as well as teens transitioning out of foster care who are at higher risk for teen pregnancy and therefore heightened risk for abuse and neglect as parents because of poverty and the likelihood they themselves experienced abuse or neglect.

Parental Involvement

Another part of the plan identifies that the Regional Prevention Council will work with the four counties to develop parental advisory committees to inform program planning and messaging. Additionally, all applicants for funding are required to demonstrate how parental input and participation is used to inform program planning. In addition, service providers in the region must include at least one parent in completing the agency’s Strengthening Families Self-Assessment.