The 2-1-1 system provides free, confidential information including referrals for food, shelter, utility assistance, and child care, as well as health resources to people in crisis. Incorporating United Way Strengthening Families into the 2-1-1 system reframes how operators respond to families in times of need. Operators listening to callers can use protective factor language to help identify family strengths, promote family resilience, encourage community contacts, and begin to address the cause of the current crisis. Although UWSF requires initial training for call center staff, once in place it enhances and refocuses the work operators do without adding to their day-to-day workload.
Strengthening Families can provide 2-1-1 centers with help for their operators. Directors can use the Strengthening Families principles to debrief and dialogue with call specialists, helping reduce the risk of secondary trauma suffered as a result of taking crisis calls.
Not every local United Way is linked with a local 2-1-1, but for those that are this strategy presents an excellent opportunity to provide the principles of Strengthening Families to community members experiencing the greatest need. For local United Ways that aren’t directly tied to a 2-1-1 call center, they can still reach out and offer training and assistance.