A PREVENT Case Study from Fayetteville, NC
In 2004, a report came out showing the rate of child homicide in two counties in North Carolina, Onslow and Cumberland, was more than double that rate for the rest of the state. Those familiar with North Carolina geography will recognize a notable similarity between these two counties: they house the two major military installations of Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg. The report argued that the size of the military populations in these counties was related to the unusually high rates of child homicide, and that this relationship should be one focus for further study and prevention initiatives. In Cumberland County, the county commissioners responded by forming the Child Homicide Identification and Prevention (CHIP) Council which later was turned into a permanent CHIP Taskforce with the charge “to prevent and respond to fatalities, near deaths, abuse and neglect in the Fort Bragg and Cumberland County community” (Team final report).
Shortly after being established, the CHIP Taskforce found out about the PREVENT Institute. It was a perfect match for their desire to develop prevention projects. The Taskforce organized a team for PREVENT made up of professionals from the Taskforce, the community and Fort Bragg. In the first session of the PREVENT Institute, the Cumberland County team identified a focus for their prevention efforts by again reviewing the child deaths that had occurred. They saw that many had been perpetrated by informal childcare providers (e.g. teen babysitter, boyfriend, aunt, or neighbor). Every parent typically usesto help parents make good choices about child care providers, and to teach parents and informal child care providers about important parenting skills. They also chose to target all of Cumberland County (both military families and civilian families) in their efforts, creating more bridges between the community and the military base for supporting vulnerable families and children. By the time they left their first PREVENT training session the team had decided to focus on several areas: gathering more information about their target population (parents who use a lot of informal child care), gathering more information about what training and supports already existed in their community, and creating ways to market their efforts so as to get community and leadership support for their efforts.
The PREVENT Institute teaches the value of collaborative partnerships to move an effort forward. Still, sometimes when you take on a big project you feel like you hit wall after wall and just can’t ever find someone to get on board with you. On the other hand, sometimes the perfect collaborator appears just at the right moment. Upon returning to Fayetteville (Cumberland’s county seat, largest city, and home to Fort Bragg) the PREVENT team was fortunate enough to have Eva Hanson “appear”.
Mrs. Hanson is executive director for the Cumberland County Partnership for Children (hereafter referred to as “the Partnership”), a non-profit organization which focuses on providing support and training to parents and childcare providers, and increasing awareness of childcare options. What’s more, as the PREVENT team was preparing to develop surveys for gathering more information for their project, they found that the Partnership had already developed and tested an innovative method for annually surveying the county’s parents on childcare issues. The Partnership had several years of collecting their “Kidstuff Community Survey” at The Fayetteville Dogwood Festival, the largest festival in the city. For the 2009 festival, the team and the Partnership worked together on questions for the survey. In return, the team members helped expand the incentives offered to parents at the festival for taking the survey (e.g. free petting zoo, childcare, tent for changing diapers, toys for children, etc). They received over 800 completed surveys from both civilian and military families. The beneficial collaboration between the team (especially Fort Bragg) and the Partnership continued well past the festival. Fort Bragg assisted in greatly speeding up the data entry of surveys, allowing the turn around time between the festival and release of the information to the community to be reduced by 75%. A representative from senior leadership at Fort Bragg joined the Partnership’s Public Engagement Committee; furthermore, Fort Bragg assisted with the printing of the Partnership’s community resource manual, which now includes a full page of information on military resources.
Fostering the relationship between the Partnership for Children and Fort Bragg has been a major and important accomplishment of the PREVENT team. It has allowed the team to collect better and more complete baseline information, the first of the main tasks they identified for themselves on leaving the first PREVENT session. They also made progress on their other tasks. By the time they returned to the second in-person PREVENT session, they had created a name to “brand” their project: The Parents Academy. Their vision for the Parent’s Academy was
To provide trainings, curriculum and resources to equip high risk and other parents with the skills they need to choose the best providers and guardians for their children and to ensure these parents and their child care providers have the tools they need to safely nurture and develop children. (Team final report)
They also decided to base their curricula, trainings, and resources on the 5 protective factors for families found to be significantly associated with a decrease in child abuse and neglect. These include: 1) guidance on child nurturing and attachment, 2) knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development, 3) coaching in parent resiliency, 4) development of social connections, and 5) the provision of concrete, basic resources for parents in need. Using this evidence based framework made the work of the team easier and more efficient.
“We didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. We literally saved thousands of hours by using the evidence based practice, even with all the time we put in.” (Team Member Interview, October 2009)
The foundation, tools and momentum gained at the PREVENT Institute carried the team after the official Institute ended. Six months after the PREVENT Institute had ended, the team had made substantial progress in developing the core of their project and in figuring out how to spread the word about their efforts to garner further support. One success was creating and funding a position for a Fort Bragg educator to be seated in a community social service agency. The educator’s job description included educating other military and civilian agencies about the 5 protective factors, working to expand agencies’ offerings around parental resiliency (parents’ ability to withstand everyday stress and occasional crises without directing their anger or frustration at the children), and helping parents directly in making choices around child care. The team had also started planning for a county-wide, two-day, free conference for parents and providers about the 5 protective factors during child abuse prevention month, with opportunities for the community to understand, critique, and find ways to support the team’s project.
If, as the 2004 report proposed, communities with large military populations have families at greater risk of fatal child abuse and neglect, then these communities need to work that much harder to reach and support vulnerable families. This team from Cumberland County has bridged strengths from both military and civilian groups to identify a need: support for informal childcare providers and parents. They are helping to create a program that both military and civilian agencies can rally around to help strengthen all families and protect children.
PREVENT Institute 2008 Fayetteville, North Carolina Team
- Identified under-recognized population of children at high risk for child homicide: those receiving significant childcare from informal providers (family, friends, neighbors etc)
- Developed collaborative relationship between Fort Bragg Army Base Family Advocacy Program and Cumberland County Partnership for Children
- Completed survey of 800 parents in Cumberland Co. on childcare needs and resources
- Developed plan for county-wide effort to offer expanded trainings and resources on choosing childcare providers and providing safe care for children to both military and civilian families
- Created marketable name for initiative (The Parents Academy) and worked to sell the idea to leaders and community
- Established and funded position within social service agency in Cumberland County to help agencies focus on 5 evidence-based protective factors in supporting families
- Conducted a free community-wide conference for area professionals, with CEU’s, to pull key community agencies together around the project.