Parenting is hard — and it’s OK to ask for help.
“It takes an entire community to help strengthen families and protect children from child abuse and neglect,” said Dr. Antoinette Laskey, division chief of child protection and family health for University of Utah Health, and medical director of Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital’s Center for Safe and Healthy Families. “We want families to know about the many free resources available to them that can help them get through the stresses and challenges they face.”
April is Family Strengthening Month, an effort to educate and provide families with the supports they need to help prevent child abuse.
In Utah, more than 9,000 children were found to be victims of child abuse and neglect, according to state data for FY21. Parents’ high stress, social isolation, substance abuse and lack of support are among the most common risk factors for child abuse and neglect.
Family Strengthening Month aims to prevent child abuse by focusing on ways to strengthen families to safely care for their own children.
Research from the Center for the Study of Social Policy shows that families who demonstrate five strengths, or protective factors, often are better able to navigate life’s challenges. These strengths – parental resilience, social connection, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support in times of need, and the social and emotional competence of children – are key to helping families cope in times of stress.
Here are some free, community resources to support families:
Family Support Centers of Utah has 17 locations with a 24-hour crisis and respite nursery, information and referral services, and parenting and youth education programs.
The Office of Home Visiting helps pregnant women and young families receive support and information about breastfeeding, developmental milestones, toilet training, nutrition, mental health, home safety, child development, and more.
Help Me Grow Utah is an information and referral help line for parents, physicians, and providers seeking ways to help children grow and develop and to access parental mental health screenings.
Prevent Child Abuse Utah offers home visits in Davis, Weber and Box Elder counties. These visits include parent educators offering support, education, and fun connective activities for families with young children. Statewide, PCAU offers free online courses, as well as virtual and in-person training about protective factors, digital safety, bullying, and child sex-trafficking.
Help with housing, utilities, food, transportation, employment, domestic violence and abuse and more is available by calling 211 or visiting 211Utah.org.
Anyone experiencing an emergency should call 911.
People who have a concern that a child has been abused or neglected, and it is not an immediate emergency, should call the Utah Division of Child & Family Services at 1-855-323-DCFS.
“By coming together as a community, we can avert crises and give families the help they need to be successful,” Dr. Laskey said.
More information can be found at PrimaryChildrens.org