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Connecting Vulnerable Children and Families to Community-Based Programs Strengthens Parents' Perceptions of Protective Factors

Hughes, Marcia PhD; Joslyn, Allison BA; Wojton, Morella; O'Reilly, Mairead BA; Dworkin, Paul H. MD

doi: 10.1097/IYC.0000000000000059
Original Research/Study

We employed principles from a nationally recognized prevention model on family support to investigate whether connecting vulnerable children to community-based programs and services through a statewide intervention system, the Help Me Grow program, strengthens parents' perceptions of protective factors. We used a parent survey modeled on 5 protective factors and related theoretical underpinnings of the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework to assess the impact of Help Me Grow on parents' perceptions of family circumstances and children's development. In addition, we coded and analyzed case notes completed by care coordinators to examine strategies for promoting protective factors. Parents reported a positive change in their family circumstances and a strengthening of protective factors. Parents' responses were positive despite differences in presenting issues. Help Me Grow support to families and their connection to programs and services enhanced parents' perceptions of protective factors even among families with differing needs. Our analyses support the practical utility of the Strengthening Families approach as a tool for engaging parents and assessing parents' perceptions of the effectiveness of interventions. A positive shift in parents' attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors contributes to engaged, supported, and educated parents who are better equipped to meet their children's needs and foster healthy developmental outcomes.

Department of Sociology, Center for Social Research, University of Hartford, West Hartford, Connecticut (Dr Hughes and Mss Joslyn and Wojton); University of Connecticut School of Law (Ms O'Reilly); and Office for Community Child Health, Connecticut Children's Medical Center, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Hartford (Dr Dworkin).

Correspondence: Marcia Hughes, PhD, Department of Sociology, Center for Social Research, University of Hartford, Hillyer Hall, Ste 423, 200 Bloomfield Ave, West Hartford, CT 06117 (mhughes@hartford.edu).

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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