Children thrive when they have regular interactions with responsive, caring adults. Families experiencing significant stressors related to financial insecurity, housing instability, or the impact of systemic and interpersonal trauma can be overloaded with stress, interrupting those interactions. Families that are experiencing this overload of stress are at greater risk for having neglect identified as a threat to their child(ren)’s safety. If we ensure that communities are equipped to ease the burden on overloaded families, we make resilience a real possibility.
Neglect is cited as the primary or contributing reason for 73% of family separations into foster care nationally and 68% here in Wisconsin. Neglect is frequently defined as the failure of a parent or other person with responsibility for the child to provide needed food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision to the degree that the child’s health, safety, and well-being are threatened with harm. Children who experience the trauma of family separation for reasons of neglect are more likely than not to return home. Overloaded families are left vulnerable by systems that are misaligned to meeting their basic necessities. Poverty, trauma, and systemic racism are some of the deep seeded root causes to this inequity. We believe that there are pathways forward to preventing a significant portion of these separations from happening.
The conditions that lead to family separations for reasons of neglect are complex, extending beyond any single system or solution. The goal of the Strong Families, Thriving Children, Connected Communities (SFTCCC) initiative is to reduce the number of family separations for reasons of neglect by building a community focused on collaboratively pursuing policies and practices that support overloaded families and address systemic failings. SFTCCC is a developmental strategy at its core, recognizing that more can be accomplished through shared learning and action to address the drivers of systems change that either hold the conditions that contribute to neglect in place or provide scaffolding for progress.
Children’s ICFW team will strive to support programs, organizations, and communities to collaborate on solutions and generate knowledge to address these complex challenges families overloaded by stress face before safety threats emerge. By elevating the latest thinking and resources we hope to foster a community of changemakers, support shared learning, expand their networks, and inspire innovation and collaboration.
 For a further discussion about what constitutes child neglect, see Child Welfare Information Gateway’s Acts of omission: An Overview of Child Neglect at https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/focus/acts
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Jo Guillian Uy Cabrera
Children’s Wisconsin’s Child Well-being Programs