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United Way Strengthening Families (UWSF) is a framework that guides local United Ways and communities in their development of initiatives designed to promote strong families, support healthy child development, and minimize the risk for child abuse and neglect. UWSF is funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and is based on the Strengthening Families approach developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP). After a thorough review of the research the CSSP concluded that the following five protective factors contribute to strong families by addressing the challenges and difficulties parents face and providing them tools to resolve issues without violence or neglect:
- Parental Resilience. Being strong and flexible every day and in times of crises.
- Social Connections. Having people to provide emotional support and share parenting ideas.
- Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development. Understanding how children grow and learn and what parenting skills fit what stages.
- Concrete Support in Times of Need. Getting the help parents or children need in times of stress or crisis.
- Social and Emotional Competence of Children. Developing the ability of children to communicate their feelings and enhance their social skills.
Some groups have identified a sixth protective factor which may also be useful in your community work:
- Nurturing and Attachment. Parenting with love and respect supports the growth and positive life experiences of children.
Each of these protective factors offers families and children some defense against distress. However, together they combine to create a solid foundation of knowledge, parenting skills, and support that can help all families thrive during everyday circumstances as well as persevere during times of stress or crisis.