July 2022: Connection and Family Strengthening



Positive, loving, and nurturing early childhood experiences, including in utero, impact child development, especially from zero to five. These positive experiences can act as a buffer to stress later in life. By age five, ninety percent of a child's brain is developed and builds more than a million neural connections a second (Zerotothree.org). Various community sectors connect and strengthen families through resources, education, and support to create safe, healthy, thriving families. The Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) defines family strengthening as a "deliberate process of giving parents the necessary opportunities, relationships, networks, and support to raise their children successfully, which includes involving parents as decision-makers in how their communities meet family needs." ( The National Human Services Assembly, Family Strengthening Policy Center, a Program of the National Human Services Assembly Policy Brief No.1) Supporting families from preconception through the first year of parenting is at the forefront of the CCCN mission and vision. Together with our CCCN members, local community partners, and advocates, we aim to create programs and services to increase access to resources, support informed decision-making, and improve the health and well-being of our community. Let's discuss additional established resources and support that connect and strengthen families on the Central Coast.


Let's explore various providers and community agencies connecting and strengthening families on the Central Coast providers.

Many types of providers and community agencies support connecting and strengthening families on the Central Coast. Last month, we shared a blog post on resources and support in Early Childhood from zero to one. We recognized top priorities for families in the first year: childbirth/parenting education, pediatric visits, feeding, bonding, and childcare. Along with these needs, as your child grows, continuing parenting education, school/educational settings, placement, and play opportunities at home and outdoors can continue to connect and strengthen families throughout the early years. You can read our past blog post here.


During the first five years, various types of providers and agencies have vital roles in connecting and strengthening families in the first five years: Teachers, Childcare Providers, Pediatricians, Hospitals, Birth Centers, Obstetricians, Family Physicians, Midwives, Pediatricians, Nurses, Doulas, Lactation Consultants, Mental Health and Wellness Professionals, Social Workers, Parent Coaches, Community Based Organizations, and Support/Play Groups.


These providers, businesses, and organizations support the unique needs of families on the Central Coast from zero to five to create safe, healthy, thriving families. Many programs and services include pregnancy, labor, and postpartum support, parent coaching, childbirth education, tracking child milestones, childcare, early education support, lactation/feeding support, in-home visits, child abuse prevention, children with special needs, mental health services, and referrals.


In San Luis Obispo County, agencies include the Center for Family Strengthening, SLO Help Me Grow, First 5 SLO, Pregnancy & Parenting Support of San Luis Obispo County, Parent Connection of SLO County, CAPSLO, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), Jack's Helping Hand, SLO Hospice. Click on the link to learn about each organization's mission and programs. *Not an exhaustive list.


In Santa Barbara County, agencies include but are not limited to CRR SBC, Calm 4 Kids, Family Services Agency, First 5 Santa Barbara County, and the Maternal Child Adolescent Health Department of Santa Barbara County.


Let's look at where these professionals and agencies work and where we can find them!

Many local agencies, providers, and businesses work in various settings and locations:

  • For-profit

  • Nonprofit, community-based, private offices

  • County health departments

  • Educational institutions

  • Private in-home visits

  • Mobile health clinics

  • Telehealth

Here at CCCN, we've created a community calendar, a collaboration of local events around the Central Coast to support our community from preconception through early parenting. We include events and services hosted by CCCN Members, free or low-cost events from various businesses, organizations, and online resources.


Beautiful venues and landscapes such as parks, libraries, museums, zoos, beaches, and trails surround the Central Coast. These facilities and places offer many opportunities for families to connect and play. Check out our past collaboration with the Gardening Doula to see various slides with Sensory Play with Babies: 5 tips and 5 places across the Central Coast.


You can find additional community resources for Parenting Education and Support and online resources on the CCCN website, including many local providers who are also listed by category in our public CCCN Member Directory. Some of our favorite local community directories include PMAD SLO, SLO County Family Services, and Northern and Mid Santa Barbara County Maternal Mental Health Community Resources.


Let's look at some evidence around family strengthening.

The Strengthening Families Approach and Protective Factors Framework: Branching Out and Reaching Deeper report outlines the Foundational Ideas of the Strengthening Family Approach and The Strengthening Families Protective Factors. The five strengthening Families' protective factors are 1) Parent Resilience, 2) Social Connections, 3) Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development, 4) Social and Emotional Competence of Children 5) Concrete Support in Times of Need. These protective factors are "interrelated attributes or conditions that simultaneously (a) prevent or mitigate the effect of exposure to risk factors and stressful life events, and (b) build family strengths and a family environment that promotes optimal child development. Research has shown that "children exposed to consistent, predictable, nurturing, and enriched experiences develop neurobiological capabilities that increase their chances for health, happiness, productivity, and creativity, while children exposed to neglectful, chaotic, and terrorizing environments have an increased risk of significant problems in all domains of functioning" (Perry & Hambrick, 2008, p. 40). The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study which found that these adverse childhood experiences "(a) are much more common than recognized, and (b) have a powerful relation to adult health status, even 50 years later." Visit ACEsaware.org to learn more about the ACEs initiative and why it is important to screen those seeking reproductive health care. Encouraging and building positive connections between families and communities is vital, and this initiative leads the effort to offer ACEs screening as early detection and intervention to improve health outcomes significantly.


Seeking support and understanding common barriers to accessing resources.

It is never too early to seek professional and community support and resources to prepare for parenting or becoming a caregiver. It is a great time to look for these providers and services before, during, or after pregnancy, or anytime during family planning such as adoption/foster, surrogacy, and even during pregnancy, infant, or child loss. You may also want to look for these providers for friends or family members who are expecting or have a child from zero to five.


We recognize that finding and accessing these resources are more difficult for some people, whether it's challenges like transportation, cost, time, availability, work-life balance, COVID-19, insurance, or language barrier. CCCN programs and services bridge access to these resources. Learn more about our programs and services here. Here are some additional programs and services that aid in reducing barriers to care and improving support:

  • Check out our low-cost/ free local community resources page at Local Resources for baby classes, lactation support, bereavement, parenting education, and more. Parenting classes and support groups offer virtual participation, which helps with time, transportation, and convenience.

  • Many programs offer Spanish/Mixtec-speaking parenting groups. Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria now has Mixtec speakers in the Maternity Department.

  • Insurance can sometimes cover the costs of lactation consultants, prepared childbirth classes, doula support, and other providers listed. Learn more about military insurance coverage for these services through Tricare.

  • The Women's Mobile Health Clinic is a partnership of the SLO Noor Foundation and Cal Poly Center for Health Research. The Women's Mobile Health clinic provides "medical and preventive health care to uninsured women who lack access to care in California's Central Coast" (healthresearch.calpoly.edu). Learn more about their mission and services here.

  • CCCN continues to work with local organizations and advocates of the LGBTQ+ community to bring education, resources, and services to you and healthcare/birth workers. Read more in our past blog post Resources and Inclusive Language for Family Planning and Family Building.


CCCN is proud to collaborate with many providers, businesses, and organizations that serve families from zero to five. Here at CCCN, we understand the importance of early parental support that connects and strengthens families. Many resources on the Central Coast to help support you along your journey as you and your family grow. We are here to support you. If you need some encouragement along the way, print and download these affirmations for encouragement. You are not alone! We've gathered resources and support from Preconception through the first year of parenting on our website, online directory, blog, community events, community calendar, newsletters, and more! Please reach out to us at centralcoastchildbirthnetwork.com and follow our Instagram @centralcoastchildbirthnetwork for more tips, support, and information this month!



💐The CCCN Team


Authored in Collaboration with Zabrina Cox, CtP Director


Sources:

  • “16 WIC.” YouTube, Central Coast Childbirth Network, INC, 7 Dec. 2020, https://youtu.be/X4PB8sYxArI. Accessed 19 July 2022.