Strong Families AZ, a network of free home visiting programs, supports home visiting professionals to positively impact the lives of Arizona’s pregnant women, families, and children ages birth to five. As part of their systems-change work, Strong Families AZ increases home visitors’ access to training and professional development. This year, Strong Families AZ provided ten scholarships to the Statewide Child Abuse Prevention Conference for home visitors who otherwise could not afford to attend.
Home visitation is one of the gold standards for child abuse prevention. Parents can access a trained parent educator who connects to them within their very own home at no cost. Home visitors help the pregnant mother and family to prepare their home in the months before delivery. Then, following the child’s birth, the home visitor supports the family by providing information about what the parent can expect from their growing infant and how the family can build protective factors.
One home visitor, who attended the conference for her first time shared: “I feel so grateful for the opportunity to participate in CAP conference. My skills were strengthened by taking the time to be present, listening to different guest speakers and their different approaches to cultivating trust. I learned a lot from the parents’ panel and their tips on better supporting or improving our skills and how it just takes making sure every person we get in touch with feels heard and seen. I have been sharing some of the resources I received from the different guest speakers, such as free virtual classes, with rural areas such as Santa Cruz County.”
The conference’s repeated topic of systems-change opportunities helped one home visitor understand their role in creating a system of child well-being: “Most of all, I was impacted by thinking about the child welfare system in a new way. My agency is attempting to revamp how we do things to focus on the strengths of families and their ability to parent their children in a way that does not require child welfare involvement. I will be doing several trainings of my staff to impart the new information I have with them.”
Home visitors have a direct connection to families, and can therefore immediately apply the information they gain from the Child Abuse Prevention Conference. For example, one scholar mentioned, “This conference was like a breakthrough for me. I will share what I learned with my co-workers and families and continue growing in my career to be better equipped to provide support to others.” Another scholar hopes to enrich her team by sharing a self-care assessment tool she learned about at her upcoming team meeting “to promote wellness and reduce burnout.”
While home visitation scholars can spread their growth exponentially through the families they serve, it is equally essential to promote the personal and professional growth of the home visitor. A conference theme of acknowledging and addressing intergenerational trauma resonated with one scholar’s story: “This conference helped me recognize that the past left significant trauma marks in my life and on the life of those families whom I work with. Through this conference, I realized I must seek help to heal my wounds.”
Each scholar had different takeaways that are unique to the needs of the families they serve. But, as one scholar explained, all attendees will know one thing clearly: “We are all in this together…if we all work together to prevent child abuse, we could save someone’s life from going through trauma and child abuse.” Thank you, Strong Families AZ, for all that you do to nourish the lives and knowledge of home visitors so they strengthen families across Arizona.