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Local View: Building family resiliency keeps families together, shapes community

From the column: "When a parent’s life is interrupted by a crisis — due to sudden, unforeseen events such as the loss of a job or home, divorce, illness, or death — our goal will be to partner with them and help them identify what they need to move forward in their lives."

Dawn Shykes.jpg
Dawn Shykes

When it comes to child well-being, there’s a natural tendency to focus attention on the child. We also recognize that children thrive when their parents thrive. When parents have opportunities to pursue education, find good jobs, and secure safe housing in good neighborhoods with strong schools, the health of their children — and our community — increases exponentially.

Our general health is largely determined by the environment in which we live. When parents live in unsafe housing conditions, that puts the health of children and families at risk. When child care is financially out of reach or just not accessible, that limits a family’s ability to work and build economic well-being. We all benefit when families have housing that’s in good condition and good jobs that bring investment to communities.

Minnesota has made important investments in child welfare in recent years. As part of the Family First Preservation Act, Minnesota is currently working on a plan to further strengthen families and improve child well-being. Greater investment in early-intervention strategies will continue to be vital.

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota will be building on this important work with plans for a new facility in Morgan Park that will both serve children more effectively in a new safe space and expand with important family services, including parent education and coaching, behavioral health, family visitation, reunification support, and connections to essential community services.

Because economic stability is essential to family stability, coaching will be an important centerpiece in this work as we walk alongside families to connect them to affordable housing, health resources, and educational opportunities that can prepare them for better jobs.

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When a parent’s life is interrupted by a crisis — due to sudden, unforeseen events such as the loss of a job or home, divorce, illness, or death — our goal will be to partner with them and help them identify what they need to move forward in their lives.

Through this initiative, we’ll also seek to remove barriers, provide greater access to supportive services, and help address wide disparities for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) families through collaboration. In 2018, Native American children were 17 times more likely to experience out-of-home care than white children in Minnesota. African American children were three times more likely to experience out-of-home care than their white counterparts. We as a community must do better.

As a society, we are shifting away from systems that separate children from their families and focusing on early intervention and prevention to create family stability and to keep families together. When we go upstream and provide more investment to support families early, we can prevent children from needing our emergency-shelter services downstream.

Parents want the best for their children. We’ll be a partner with them to reach their goals, address challenges, and help them create the best possible outcomes for their children — because building family stability and resiliency is essential to child well-being and healthy communities.

Let’s invest in families and help all children thrive. How we care for children now will shape them and our community for years to come.

Dawn Shykes is senior director of Youth and Family Services in Duluth for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.

Related Topics: HOUSINGHEALTHFAMILY
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