Helping Our Communities

During the summertime when work nationwide slows down a bit, I can give more attention to my local community.  This summer the National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) convened a meeting of leaders in the community to discuss critical needs and how we could work together to address them.

I live in a rural community in Idaho with about 4,000 people.  Here are some of the issues in this community as reflected in statistics from the entire state of Idaho:

  • Idaho has the 9th highest suicide rate in the nation
  • Idaho ranks 4th nationwide for the non-medical use of prescription opioid painkillers
  • Idaho ranks 3rd for criminal child pornography offenses
  • Traffic accidents/injuries/deaths in this community frequently involve not stopping at stop signs and not wearing seat belts

Those are harsh statistics and hard issues to address. Here are some positive statistics about the community and state:

  • Idaho is the third most charitable state in the nation in terms of volunteerism and donating money
  • Idaho rates first in the nation in child welfare systems (Right for Kids Ranking)
  • Idaho has the 9th highest employment rate in the nation

What do the statistics tell us about this community and state?  We’re generous, work hard, and take care of our families.  But we’re also stubborn and independent and don’t ask for help when we really need it!  How do we address these issues?

The community leaders decided to begin by identifying the resources that we already have.  For example, we have three free resources for people with addictions but the resources are mostly invisible.  We need to make sure that they’re visible!  We can do that by widely disseminating information about resources.  We are also looking at raising money to fund a position to connect people needing help to the resources.

The faith-based community is stepping up to provide resources.  Last year NFPN and local churches sponsored a Celebrate Families Day, providing free food, fun activities, and educational materials to children and parents.  We also sought donations for the local elementary school and everyone pitched in to fill a bus with backpacks and school supplies.

This year we want to emphasize safety when students return to school.  We will do a kick-off in the fall that includes slogans such as Stop…in the name of love!

My long-term vision for this community is to have a multi-purpose family center that includes activities for families, connection to services, counseling for individuals and the family as a whole, support groups, educational resources, etc.  Families are important and need a place to call their own!

So, this summer, take a look at your community’s needs and see how you, your organization, other helping organizations, churches, etc. can join together to help meet the needs.  It will benefit both your community…and you!

Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director

Building Resilience

Last month the NFPN News Notes Blog featured the remarkable story of Terry Morris and how his resilience took him from a horribly abusive childhood to becoming a rocket engineer at NASA.  This month we look at how to build resilience.

On the Harvard Business Review blog, John McKinley writes that when it comes to identifying leaders who can effect lasting social change, what matters most is resilience. According to McKinley, the three key characteristics of resilient leaders are:

  1. Grit: Short-term focus on tasks at hand, a willingness to slog through broken systems with limited resources, and pragmatic problem-solving skills.
  2. Courage: Action in the face of fear and embracing the unknown.
  3. Commitment: Long-term optimism and focus on big-picture goals.

To view the entire article, visit: https://hbr.org/2013/02/want-to-change-the-world-be-resilient

John McKinley says that “resilience can be trained.”  How might we go about training for resilience in our lives?

The American Psychological Association lists 10 ways to build resilience and here are four of them:

  • Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience.
  • Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events.
  • Accept that change is a part of living. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.
  • Move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”

To view the entire list, visit: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx

With resilience in our own lives, we are then in a position to help others build resilience. Kelly Wilson, a clinician with expertise in trauma treatment, says that to foster resilience in children, the primary factor is having caring and supporting relationships. There must be an environment of love, trust, and acceptance, and role models who offer encouragement and assistance.

Factors that foster resilience in trauma-exposed children include:

  • Able to ask adults for help
  • Stable, nurturing parent or caretaker and extended family
  • Supportive, positive school experiences
  • Consistent family environment (structured routine, family traditions, etc.)
  • Strong cultural connections and cultural identity

To view Kelly’s PowerPoint (with excellent illustrations) on building resiliency so that children can thrive, visit http://helpkidsthrive.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Building-Resiliency-Thrive.pdf

One measure of resiliency is the positive change experienced as a result of the struggle with a traumatic event.  The Post-traumatic Growth Research Group lists five factors of posttraumatic growth:

  • Relating to others
  • New possibilities
  • Personal strength
  • Spiritual change
  • Appreciation for life

A Posttraumatic Growth Inventory reflects these changes and is available here: http://www.emdrhap.org/content/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/VIII-B_Post-Traumatic-Growth-Inventory.pdf

Finally, check out the Preserving Families Blog that provides information on ground-breaking legislation for prevention services: https://preservingfamiliesblog.wordpress.com/

Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director

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