HOPE Week Helping Families Thrive
Posted on 03/31/2023

Benton-Franklin Health District (BFHD) is celebrating the Week of HOPE (Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences). BFHD is proud of our staff's work to bring together health and human service organizations, community individuals and other community-focused groups dedicated to cultivating healthy relationships and resilient families free from violence and substance abuse through the recently rebranded Community of HOPE Coalition.  

The Community of HOPE Coalition has focused on increasing awareness of ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences), resilience, and the improved delivery of trauma-informed practice within Benton-Franklin Health District and throughout the community. By 2016, the coalition had provided training and outreach on ACEs, resilience, and trauma-informed care and developed a community resource connection tool that was shared and replicated throughout Washington State. 

In 2017, the Journal of the Academic Pediatric Association introduced the HOPE Framework. The development of HOPE drew on the work of many, beginning with the Montana Institute's Science of the Positive framework, which is founded on the core assumption, "The Positive" is real, already exists in people and cultures, and can be developed and expanded. HOPE also drew on the Center for the Study of Social Policy's family-level protective factors from the Strengthening Families Approach® along with the public health approach of the CDC's Essentials for Childhood program. The HOPE (Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences) team pulled together existing data and began to explore exactly how positive experiences affect the growing child. Much of the evidence for HOPE was produced with the collaboration and support of the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative

The HOPE framework focuses on the need to actively promote positive childhood experiences and community environments that contribute to healthy development and well-being, as well as prevent or mitigate the effect of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and other negative environmental influences. 

The HOPE framework highlighted that ACEs and their associated harms are preventable. ACE's screening tools, which include elements of implicit bias, create a presumption of deficit. Clients or patients are asked to "disclose" experiences of hunger, homelessness, violence, mental health conditions, and other challenges that then become the subject of professional intervention
CLICK HERE: For Fun Family Activities for the Virtual Week of HOPE: Family Library

HOPE shifts this narrative. People are defined by their strengths as well as their challenges, and HOPE-informed practices create a presumption of strength. Even people with high ACEs scores show resilience, strength and often also recall positive childhood experiences – showing their ACEs score does not define them. 

HOPE exists because positive experiences help children become more resilient, healthier adults. HOPE and the HOPE framework help us better understand and support these key positive experiences, transforming systems that focus on problems.  

There are Four Building Blocks of HOPE. These essential positive childhood experiences include:   

    1. Safe, stable and nurturing relationships with other children and adults
    2.  Safe, equitable and stable environments for living, learning and playing at home and in school.
    3.  Social and civic engagement to develop a sense of belonging and connectedness.  
    4. Emotional growth through playing and interacting with peers, experiencing nature, and developing self-awareness and self-regulation. 

A core finding of HOPE is that families are resilient. As we close out HOPE week and move to awareness of Child Abuse Prevention month, we celebrate the strengths of families. Over the past three years, home visitors changed to virtual visits, increased the number of contacts with families, and helped them get food and other basic needs. We heard of school bus drivers taking food to rural families who need access to meals at school. Teachers managed to make remote learning work for many children. Our communities – geographic and spiritual, focused on supporting each other. 

The stimulus checks and the child tax credit pulled millions of children out of poverty, according to data from Tufts HOPE. Better unemployment, WIC, and SNAP benefits protected families when parents were out of work. The eviction moratorium eased housing insecurity. Numerous studies have shown that family economic stress increases the likelihood of child abuse. These financial supports for families show that reducing economic stress can be effective against child abuse. With the end of the public health emergency, these supports are disappearing. The stress of higher food and gas prices and struggles to find housing affect our families and children.   

This leaves us with several lessons for Child Abuse Prevention Month:  

  1. Families love and protect their children, and they adapt quickly to the new reality. Policies and informal supports freed families to focus on caring for their children and preventing child abuse.  
  2.  People who work with children are dedicated, creative, and committed. Home visitors, teachers, therapists, and doctors quickly changed their work patterns to support families.  
  3.  We continue to face severe challenges as we return to normal. Three years of isolation have brought long-lasting changes at work and school and left a mental health crisis. 

Child abuse is preventable. Benton-Franklin Health District works with coalitions and advocates for policies that support families and children. Policies that will reduce family poverty and provide for meaningful engagement and emotional recovery. The ACE's and Resilience Coalition has rebranded as the Community of HOPE Coalition and is working to ensure the Four Building Blocks of HOPE are available to all children in our community.  
Adapted from content on Tufts HOPE – Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences