These are challenging times for everyone.

Right now, we’re all focusing on minimizing risk and the adverse impact of this pandemic on all families and children. Building protective factors into our children’s world is more important than ever to mitigate the impact of this current disaster on kids in our community.

So how do we do that?

There are five protective factors that buffer against adverse childhood experiences that every child experiences, some more than others. Protective factors serve as buffers; helping parents find resources, support and/or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively. Research shows that the protective factors are linked to a lower incidence of child abuse, neglect and improved short and long term health and education outcomes.

What are the five protective factors?

  • Social and Emotional Competence of Children: Children’s early experiences of being nurtured and developing a positive relationship with caring adults affects all aspects of behavior and development.
  • Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development: Children thrive when parents provide not only affection, but also respectful communication and listening, consistent rules and expectations and safe opportunities that promote independence.
  • Parental Resilience: Parents who can cope with the stresses of everyday life, as well as an occasional crisis, have resilience; they have the flexibility and inner strength necessary to bounce back when things are not going well. Multiple life stressors, such as a family history of abuse or neglect, health problems, marital conflict, or domestic or community violence — and financial stressors such as unemployment, poverty, and homelessness — may reduce a parent’s capacity to cope effectively with the typical day-to-day stresses of raising children.
  • Concrete Support for Parents: Many factors affect a family’s ability to care for their children. Families who can meet their own basic needs for food, clothing, housing and transportation — and who know how to access essential services such as child care, health care and mental health services to address family-specific needs — are better able to ensure the safety and well-being of their children.
  • Social Connections: Parents with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family and neighbors often find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves. Most parents need people they can call on once in a while when needing a sympathetic listener, advice or concrete support. Research has shown that parents who are isolated, with few social connections, are at higher risk for child abuse and neglect.

What is the Down East Partnership for Children doing to build protective factors during this unprecedented time? Our work during this disaster has fallen into four main areas:

  • Virtual family support for parents: Incredible Years, Circle of Parents, Triple P and Kaleidoscope Playgroups are all operating virtually. With the perfect technology fit for each group, we have connected to new participants not requesting help before. Parents of children under the age of five interested in a virtual playgroup should contact playgroups@depc.org. Circle of Parents, a support group for families of children with special needs, meets each week through a conference call with great sharing of resources, emotional venting and laughter. The Incredible Years weekly ZOOM meetings have gone very well, with moms sitting on their front porches, in their cars and in their backyards while their kids played. Parents may call 252-985-4300, ext. 270, and leave a message regarding one-on-one parental support through Triple P or for more information on any of our programs for families.
  • Support for child care providers and essential workers: About half of the subsidy, N.C. Pre-K and Scholarship Providers, remain open and available to provide emergency child care for essential workers. Parents are eligible for new emergency subsidy funding if they are under 300 percent of poverty. If you know essential workers needing care for the children, please have them call our Family First Line, 252-985-4300, ext. 220. N.C. pre-K and child care providers who are closed are reaching out remotely to support children and families and we are working on plans to support them to reopen when it’s safe to do so.
  • Provide access to local food: With so many people unemployed due to the Covid-19 crisis, many more folks are eligible for SNAP and WIC food assistance, which can be applied for at epass.nc.gov and used at grocery stores and farmers markets. The Rocky Mount market is now open and offering Fresh Bucks, which doubles your purchasing power for fresh food. The USDA also approved North Carolina to implement Pandemic EBT (Electronic Benefit Transaction) for families and children qualifying for free and reduced lunch. Since school is closed, the card will allow children to receive the value of school lunches on an EBT Card.
  • Build outreach and self-advocacy skills: Please reach out to your elected representative and those running for office and tell your stories of how this disaster has impacted you, your families, your businesses and employees. Ask them to help rebuild our community and our education system to be stronger than ever. If you haven’t been counted yet in the census, please take 10 minutes and complete this importance step in bringing resources to our community. See my2020census.gov to complete online or call 844-330-2020 for more information. Customer service representatives are available every day from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Eastern Time.

Finally, more than ever it’s important to be healthy and take care of yourself. Take the time to build protective factors around yourself and the ones you love. Take advantage of virtual resilience orientation and listening circles provided by Resources for Resilience at resourcesforresilience.com.

Please continue to stay safe and be well. Let us know how we can help.

For more information visit us at depc.org or call 2525-985-4300. Our building and park are closed for now, but we are all here to help.