Improving Family Economic Security Reduces Child MaltreatmentLeave a Comment
Guest Post by Jamia “Mia” Crockett, Chief Executive Officer of Families Forward Virginia
Families Forward Virginia, in partnership with the Division of Family Services at Virginia Department of Social Services is observing National Child Abuse Prevention Month during April. This year, our advocacy is dedicated to “Growing a Better Tomorrow for All Children Together!”
The biggest protective factors for facing adversity and building resilience are social supports and remaining connected to people. Unfortunately, as a system in Virginia, we have not been doing this work well for many years. State systems and community partners have often unintentionally worked in silos, leading to missed opportunities, broken safety nets and minimal collaboration across agencies.
Strengthening family financial security is key to reduce child maltreatment and to enhance the relationships that help children thrive. When families face financial hardship, it sets the stage for more stress and less tuned-in interaction with children. Boosting family incomes through emergency direct payments, tax credits and paid family leave can relieve pressure and prevent childhood adversity from occurring. The General Assembly can give families with kids more support by making Virginia’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) refundable. Virginia’s current EITC is non-refundable, capping the amount of the credit available to families. A refundable EITC would help budget incomes for working families across the state.
As a rule, parents want what’s best for their children. We also know that children don’t come with instruction manuals. Even in good times, parenting is one of the most challenging jobs. All parents need help learning how to raise and teach their children. It’s especially critical for parents who didn’t have good role models themselves, don’t have help from relatives, or can’t access programs such as home visiting where they learn skills and understand what behaviors and skills are appropriate for specific ages.
Clearly, we’re not all experiencing this pandemic in the same way. Through our 50 affiliates across Virginia, we’re seeing children and families – who were already struggling – desperately seeking help, dealing with a lack of paid leave, stressing about rent, utilities, medicine, and food with underinsurance or no health insurance. This pandemic has also exposed weaknesses in the child welfare system, such as:
- Youth aging out of the foster care system without a supportive family
- Limited access to technology
- Youth in foster care having insufficient time with parents
- Lack of flexibility with federal funding
- Limited access to basic needs, including food, housing, employment
- Lack of modernization in the judicial system
Families have the right to live in a world free from fear, violence, or discrimination. Children deserve to experience the whimsical nature of childhood and learn about unfettered opportunities available to them. Instead, some children, especially children of color, have to learn to always get a receipt after making a purchase, why they shouldn’t wear a hoodie, or why they should be wary of how they play in their own front yards. As a Black mother of 13- and 11-year old sons, I am having to renegotiate what safety looks like. What safety looks like for my daughter, as little girls of color go missing daily with little or no attention.
Every child is filled with tremendous promise, and we share an obligation to foster their potential. Children need a support system to face adversity and build resilience, but naming and accepting that fact is different from seeing that necessity in everyday life. Before interventions are needed, policymakers need to support families with training and resources that address children’s well-being. That’s why Families Forward Virginia has:
- Expanded the number of Circle of Parents, a parent peer support program, locations from eight to 17, with multiple Circle groups at each.
- Facilitated conversations with the Virginia Department of Corrections to develop, train and support Circle of Parents groups to engage with their children proactively and positively both during and after incarceration.
- Renewed parent leadership engagement across the state because parents must be at the table, creating opportunities and resources for positive family development.
- Expanded efforts to encourage and drive collaboration among our child abuse prevention affiliates.
Systems aren’t set in stone. Policymakers created systems, and policymakers must change them to meet new needs and new research. Policies that strengthen family financial security are another key strategy to reduce childhood adversity and enhance the relationships that help children thrive. When families face financial hardship, it sets the stage for more stress and less tuned-in interaction with children.
Boosting family incomes through emergency direct payments, tax credits and paid family leave can relieve pressure, helping to head off childhood adversity before it happens. We must stand together, continuing to gain allies and speak truth to those in power in the unending fight to foster the potential and promise of every single child in Virginia.
Join us in taking action today and tell lawmakers to prioritize children and families as they continue state budget negotiations.
Jamia Crockett is the Chief Executive Officer of Families Forward Virginia.
Jamia became Families Forward Virginia’s CEO in February 2021, having earlier served on the Board of Directors as Treasurer. Most recently, Jamia worked at Mary Washington Healthcare. She previously worked in various health systems across both Virginia and North Carolina focused on Strategic Planning and Business Development with extensive experience in research and evaluation.
Jamia has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from William and Mary and a Master’s in Health Administration from VCU. Jamia is also an adjunct professor in executive leadership skills at Virginia Commonwealth University.