April is Child Abuse Prevention month, and Virginia’s General Assembly leaders are hashing out a new state budget. They can support families with kids by expanding Virginia’s Earned Income Tax Credit to be refundable so that families get more support. This would help to increase incomes for working families across the state. Currently, Virginia has a nonrefundable state EITC, which caps the amount of the credit available to families.
We know that policies that strengthen family financial security are a key strategy to reduce child maltreatment 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. It is hard to play with your child when you are worrying about how you are going to pay the electric bill. 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.
As a general rule, all parents want what’s best for their children. We also know that children don’t come with instruction manuals, and parenting is one of the most difficult jobs even in good times. All parents could use help learning how to raise and teach their children. It’s especially critical for parents who didn’t have positive role models themselves, don’t have help from relatives or can’t access programs such as home visiting, parent support groups, and classes where they learn skills and understand what behaviors and skills are appropriate for specific ages.
It’s very clear that 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 how to pay bills such as rent, utilities and food, and facing 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 and technological equipment
- 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, and discrimination, and have unique experiences and needs that are important and valuable. As a mother of three school-aged children, I want my children and all children to be able to live and experience the whimsy of childhood, learn about unfettered opportunities instead of learning to always get a receipt, why they shouldn’t wear a hoodie, or why they should be wary of how they play in their own front yards.
Every child is filled with tremendous promise, and as a community we have a shared obligation to foster their potential. The biggest protective factors for facing adversity and building resilience are social supports and remaining connected to people, but cognitively recognizing and accepting that fact and emotionally incorporating that reality into everyday life aren’t the same. That means shoring up the ways we support families by providing trainings and resources before interventions are needed. That’s why Families Forward Virginia has:
- Expanded the number of Circle of Parents locations from eight to 17 in 2020, with multiple Circle groups at each. During the pandemic this number went down.
- Are working with the Virginia Department of Corrections to develop, train and support Circle of Parents groups in state institutions to prepare parents 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 both encourage and drive collaboration among our child abuse prevention affiliates.
Systems aren’t set in stone, though it may feel like that. People created systems, and people can change them. 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. Some will resist these policy changes. We must stand together, continuing to gain allies and speaking truth to those in power in the unending fight to foster the potential and promise of every single child and family in Virginia.
Action Alliance Guest Blog Note: Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month are both recognized in April. Understanding the links between these two issues and working to promote conditions that ensure every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential is an integral part of the Action Alliance’s policy, prevention, and advocacy work. This post is a guest entry by Jamia “Mia” Crockett, Chief Executive Office of Families Forward Virginia, one of the Action Alliance’s statewide partners.
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, and previously she 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 a former adjunct professor in executive leadership skills at Virginia Commonwealth University.Read more news