The Thriving Families, Safer Children work in Kentucky continues in many different ways among the partner organizations. One of the ways that the partnership is working towards ensuring kids are safe and families are thriving is by engaging in locally-focused conversations around primary and secondary child abuse prevention.
The Department for Community Based Services, Administrative Office of the Courts, and Kentucky Youth Advocates facilitated 9 regional community conversations called Visioning Sessions to engage each region around their vision for safer children and thriving families, specifically focused on primary and secondary child abuse prevention. The Visioning Sessions also included voices and perspectives from birth parents and young adults with foster care experiences, from the Voices of the Commonwealth, to encourage attendees to continue building a table that includes the voices of those with lived experience as they create their prevention plans.
What are Visioning Sessions?
Visioning sessions are regional convenings that bring together community leaders and advocates – including parents, superintendents, human service providers, local elected officials, and more – to discuss the vision for the child welfare system as we move towards a prevention focus. The goals of a Visioning Sessions are:
- Understand how communities define child and family well-being and what they need to ensure all children grow up safe in thriving families and strong communities
- Identify priority recommendations for change and the barriers communities have encountered
- Identify strengths and opportunities, and
- Align, attach to, invest in, and amplify community-led efforts focused on child and family well-being
What did the Visioning Sessions result in?
The discussion related to child abuse prevention in each region, both primary and secondary, resulted in a better understanding of the strengths and gaps of support for parents and caregivers. While each region is unique in what strengths and resources are available, there were common gaps in addressing risk factors within families. In every region, high-quality and accessible child care was identified as a gap and risk factor for our families across the Commonwealth.
Because these sessions encouraged proactive rather than reactive thinking, conversations opened up thought processes that encouraged understanding the root causes of community challenges as well as stronger collaboration among community service providers. It’s evident that each of Kentucky’s regions take pride in serving their own communities, making the conversations action-oriented with an upstream focus.
How can you engage?
Primary and secondary child abuse prevention includes plenty of opportunities for individual action.
- Identify a parent or caregiver you can support. Parenting is tough, especially parenting alone or parenting with mental health challenges. Keeping in touch with a parent or caregiver and offering a hand or an ear can make a big difference in their lives. Connection changes lives.
- Be aware of changes in a child’s behavior. If a child has a marked change in behaviors like increased agitation, fear, aggression, isolation, or anything out of the norm for that child. Check out resources that may be helpful for every age and stage.
- Be aware of risk factors in the home. There are individual and environmental risk factors that can contribute to child abuse and neglect. For example, a child under the age of four or with special needs or a parent struggling with untreated substance abuse or mental health issues or not having adequate parenting skills. Connect parents to resources when needed.
- Know the six stages of grooming. Adults and older youth who are likely to sexually abuse a child often use the same strategies to gain the trust of a child and then violate their boundaries.
- Share what you know. Talk to your friend and family or share Face It resources – such as CONNECT, TEN-4 Bruising Rule, and Body Safe Safety 101 – and place an order to distribute materials in your community.
Stay tuned as we launch a toolkit to develop and implement Visioning Sessions in your community.