A mom of two boys and stepmom of three daughters, Kristina Smith worked as a lead teacher in a toddler room before beginning her dream job as Parent Educator at TLC Family Resource Center in Claremont, New Hampshire. Shortly after starting and at the Executive Director’s recommendation, Kristina signed up for New Hampshire Children’s Trust’s Strengthening Families training: “Bringing the Protective Factors Framework to Life in Your Work.”
“I came into this with a fresh mind, as this was not a training I had ever taken before and I knew very little about it,” Kristina says. “I was very intrigued by the Five Protective Factors as they are not only connected with the families I work with, but also with my own life.”
The training—which is offered as both a six-hour and two-day workshop, as well as an online version—is a seven-module training that gives real-world examples of everyday actions that professionals can take to promote the Five Protective Factors: Parental Resilience, Concrete Support in Times of Need, Social Connections, Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development, and Social and Emotional Competence of Children. When these Protective Factors are fostered in our lives and communities, all children can have great childhoods.
“I use what I learned from the training as a guide,” says Kristina. “I look at each protective factor and try to understand where my families are in each one. Do they have resilience? Do they have positive relationships that support them? Do they understand their children’s developmental needs, and what resources can I bring that will help them? . . . Going through this as a guide, I am able to learn so much about the families I work with, what their ACEs [adverse childhood experiences] are, and how to help them through these challenges.”
New Hampshire Children’s Trust began offering the Strengthening Families training in 2013 and has since trained nearly 1,000 people in face-to-face workshops and 1,500 people online. The workshops are designed for educators, health and human service professionals, volunteers, and parent leaders, and professional development hours are available in several fields.
Besides being new to this type of field work, Kristina says there are other challenges she and her coworkers face: time management, self-care, not having appropriate resources, and “having families understand that we are here to help, not hurt.” The Strengthening Families training teaches participants to recognize when a parent might be lacking any of the Five Protective Factors, and it gives them the tools they need to ensure the parent can acquire those supports.
“I would truly recommend this training to others in various fields who work with children and families,” says Kristina. “We are complex human beings, and most people have experienced ACEs throughout their lives. Once we know what ACEs we’re dealing with and which Protective Factors we’re lacking, we can use this knowledge to help support and build these traits so that we can develop and enhance the strength of our families and the safety of our children.”