Mineral County promotes Strengthening Families Month


All throughout the month of April, the Mineral County Healthy Communities Coalition, the Mineral County Family Connections Collaborative, and the Parents as Teachers Program at the Mineral County Health Department will join together in promoting Strengthening Families Month.

This annual observation was once recognized as National Child Abuse Prevention Month and has been observed in the United States since 1983.

2021 was the first year that Mineral County officially participated by displaying blue pinwheels and signs throughout the local communities to demonstrate support and encourage area families. Gov. Greg Gianforte recently acknowledged this month’s family and community health focus and the week of April 2-8 was to focus on the Young Children of Montana. Aiming to foster the physical, emotional, social, and educational well-being of all Montana children.

Superior resident April Quinlan works as the Supervisor for the local Parents as Teachers home visiting program, as well as the Co-Coordinator for Mineral Counties early childhood/family support programs.

She stated, “Multiple Mineral County programs, organizations and community members are taking time to highlight the importance of this month and show support for all families in Mineral County through events, pinwheel gardens, shared information and program promotions during the month of April.”

For 10 years now, the Parents as Teachers program has been working with local families providing resources, and home learning opportunities. Quinlan listed other groups as well, “Our Healthy Communities Coalition has been serving the community for six years and the Family Connections Collaborative has been serving the community for three years.” Each of these programs can be found on Facebook.

With important support systems available, these local organizations want to bring awareness to this month’s objective. Quinlan shared, “Child abuse and neglect occur in every social and economic situation spanning from poverty to wealth. Strong resilient families occur in each of these social and economic settings as well. How resilient families are depends on what their support system and protective factors looks like. That is why we work to ensure our family programming at the Health Department is accessible to all Mineral County families.”

Studies have confirmed that families who lack clear protective factors may have higher risks of child neglect or abuse. Quinlan explained, “Protective factors are the strengths and resources families draw on during difficult times to shield them from life’s stresses. Research shows that when parents possess protective factors, the risk for neglect and abuse diminish and optimal outcomes for children, youth, and families are promoted. Major protective factors include knowledge of parenting, knowledge of child development, parental resilience, social connections, and concrete supports.”

The effects of childhood abuse and neglect can be measured using a classification called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES). ACES are described as potentially traumatic events that happen to a child before they reach the age of 18.

Approximately 1 in 4 children in Montana have experienced at least 1 of these events, compared to 1 in 5 in the nation. About 2 in 3 adults in Montana have experienced an ACES event as well.

Quinlan addressed studies that reflect a correlation between childhood adverse experiences and increased risk behaviors later in adulthood. “These experiences impact overall health, well-being, education, and job potential. The most important thing to remember with ACES is that they can be prevented, and their effects can be lessened with the right help and family/community support. Many people have experienced one or more ACES and they are flourishing adults; they are resilient people with strong support networks.”

She remarked, “Throughout our community, there are multiple systems/programs set up to encourage strong circles of support for parents and children in Mineral County. Early Childhood Family Support programs starting with pregnancy through kindergarten completion can be found at the Mineral County Health Department.” Most of these services are regarded as universal, meaning they are accessible for all families in our community.

Each school district in the county provides basic needs support to families, as well as engaging family programs and events, some even offer adult education, and social emotional support for families as a whole.

Quinlan esteemed, “Our schools really are the center for families in Mineral County. Not only do they play a big role in preventing child abuse, they also provide support to families and help children in ways that go beyond the classroom. They play a vital role in our children’s health and overall family well-being.” She continued, “Schools, teachers, and staff are some of the key contributors to resilience in families. They provide a critical service to our children by being positive and engaged adults outside of the family unit, which increases resiliency in children and provides them with the key encouragement needed to succeed.”

With being a small and rural community, Mineral County has impressive number of resources for parents. The county has established dedicated family support professionals and mental health providers, Quinlan said, “Having a trauma-informed community also helps to support our families. With the rural nature of our county, it can be hard for families to access the help that they need, so we all need to work to help eliminate barriers to services and provide tools to help connect families with one another.”

There are local parenting groups that meet on a regular basis through Circle of Parents, local churches, and informal social groups. Throughout the rest of the year Quinlan recommended ways to stay involved with other families and provide a sense of community to those raising young children. Things like hosting family friendly events throughout the county, and supporting the agencies and organizations that offer programming and support for Mineral County families.

She mentioned, “Also sharing information and resources about ACES and trauma-informed resources. Community-based strategies to prevent ACEs and trauma and increase resiliency development. Integrate knowledge about the widespread effects of ACEs and trauma into policies, procedures, and health, human service, and education environments that serve children. And Implement resiliency-building programs and trauma-informed educational and behavioral approaches in schools and early childhood settings.”

If you are interested in participating in these efforts to reduce adverse childhood experiences, Quinlan suggested joining the Healthy Communities Coalition by checking out their Healthy Communities Coalition on Facebook or calling the Health Department at (406) 822-3564. The HCC actively works on improving the health and well-being of all community members.

She said another way to seek assistance or share with others is, “Refer friends and family who are currently expecting or who have little kiddos to county wide family engagement/support programs, including: Parents as Teachers Home Visiting, Birthing Doula Services, Passenger Safety Seat program, Parent Liaison Program, Lactation Counseling, Women Infant and Children Nutritional Program (WIC) and others by emailing [email protected] or calling (406) 822-3564.”

On April 30, The Family Connections Collaborative is hosting a family fun event from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Fairgrounds in Superior. It will feature bouncy houses, activities for kids, information for families, snacks and more. They will also have certified car seat safety technicians on site to do car seat checks for families that day.

People can follow the Family Connections Collaborative and Mineral County Parents as Teachers on Facebook to keep up with our various events. Quinlan noted, “Any local organization that is looking for support around family events in Mineral County including financial, marketing, or volunteer help, can reach out to the Health Department.”

Begin looking for pinwheel gardens during the week of April 25-30, at the following locations: The Mineral County Courthouse lawn, St. Regis Schools, and the Alberton Library/Community Center. Quinlan said, “These pinwheels represent hope for families and encouragement for Mineral County Families to engage with their community. Feel free to pluck a pinwheel to take home and use as a reminder to plug in with your community, neighbors and friends.”

The following is a list of useful family resources that are provided to all the area communities. Contact the Mineral County Health Department to learn more about available services in Mineral County:

• Email [email protected] or call (406) 822-3564

• Parents as Teachers program – universal home visiting for families from pregnancy through kindergarten completion. Parenting resources and support, child development information and family events.

• Parent Liaison program – Available to all families with children in Early Kindergarten or Kindergarten Classes enrolled in Mineral County schools. Parenting resources and support, child development information and family events.

• Birthing Doulas – Support for all pregnant families in Mineral County. Birthing support for families.

• Birth Education Courses – Available for all pregnant families in Mineral County

• Passenger Safety Seat Checks and distribution – All families with children who use a car seat are eligible for this program. Safety checks, installments and car seat resources are available to families who inquire.

• Lactation/Infant feeding counseling – Certified feeding specialist work with families to make sure newborns are getting what they need.

• Mental Health Resources – Multiple providers are available in the community. Providers serve a wide range of ages and needs. A consultant at the Health Department can provide information on providers near you.

• Women Infant and Children Program – Nutritional education and support for families starting at pregnancy and serving families with children up to age five that meet program criteria.

• Healthy Relationship Resources

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