North Dakotans learn how Family-Strengthening Hubs can help families live their best lives

You see that family – that smiling, photogenic family who seems to always be taking the best vacations and posting adorably candid family portraits on Instagram?

All shiny appearances aside, that family is not immune to struggle, whether that be financial pressure, substance abuse, trouble in school or something else. No family is perfect, and just about any family could benefit from a little outside perspective and reinforcement on occasion.

This is where our new Family-Strengthening Hubs can help. Recently launched in Grand Forks, Watford City and Dickinson, these hubs provide a circle of support from trained, non-judgmental, compassionate professionals, for qualifying families with children, at no cost to them.

Last week, families, city leaders and interested residents were able to learn more about this new service by attending one of our open house events in those three communities.

A diverse group of guests, ranging from parents and police officers to county social workers and Lutheran church members, dropped by to learn what the FSH is, how it works and why it is so effective at helping families to live their best lives.

What are Family-Strengthening Hubs?

The template for the Family-Strengthening Hub (FSH) was inspired in part by the success of

Healthy Families a federal program that LSSND has offered in the Grand Forks region since 2000. Healthy Families is a voluntary, nationally recognized service in which home visitors use a proactive, solutions-focused, two-generation approach to work with parents and their young children from the time of pregnancy through age 3.

Healthy Families has demonstrated effectiveness: Data shows parents feel better equipped to parent, financial and health outcomes improve, and families become closer, stronger and more resilient at coping with future challenges.

LSSND leaders looked at the effectiveness of this program and asked if we might do even more.

They knew kids and parents would navigate tough transitions and benefit from coaching support long after age 3.

Last year, they earned a grant to launch the Family-Strengthening Hubs. The hubs will become resources and support networks for any variety of challenges for families with children, ranging from divorce or first-time pregnancy to a household adjusting to one parent returning to the workplace or a teen who has started flirting with illegal activities.

Each hub consists of specialists in the following areas:

  • Healthy Families home visitors for families whose children are young enough to meet the Healthy Families requirements.

  • DIVERT: Trained personnel with behavioral-health credentials who work with families in instances when children, ages 6-17, are at risk of or have been in trouble with the law, in efforts to prevent them from entering the criminal justice system while teaching them to make healthier choices. The Youth Diversion specialist works with the family to help identify and work through issues that may be contributing to the child’s struggles. In turn, the youth learns how to make good choices and deal with stress and other big feelings, while parents learn how to support the child and be an active participant in the child’s life. Communication is a key element in the short-term, behavior-based therapy.

  • Family Coaching: Home visitors who are available for families whose children are too old to qualify for Healthy Families. Our trained coaches join together with families to help focus attention on what children need to prosper, exploring solutions together that might work best for their particular situation and providing encouragement, guidance and resources as needed.

Based on each family’s specific situation, specialists from one or all of these areas collaborate with parents and children to build communication, constructively solve problems and sharpen resiliency skills. The emphasis is on proactive approaches and early intervention, so situations can be addressed before they escalate to crises. Families also acquire many of the skills they need to navigate through future stressors and pressure points.

Services are available in a 60-mile radius of each hub. Self-referrals are encouraged and accepted, although families may also be referred by churches, schools, law enforcement, friends, family, or community agencies.

Hubs already enhancing partnerships

As demonstrated by last week’s events, when groups sharing a like-minded vision meet, great things can transpire.

the Grand Forks open house, LSS teammembers were able to connect with representatives from the Northlands Rescue Mission in Grand Forks about unmet needs they had with families and new programming they had planned. We felt fortunate to be able to learn about what our partnering agencies are up to, should we be able to refer someone to their services.

We also connected with several organizations whose representatives couldn’t make the event, but had reached out to schedule time to meet with us. That included the Grand Forks Air Force Base Exceptional Family Member Program, who wanted to connect and ensure families of military personnel are best supported.

Across the state, we were able to network with Watford City school staff about our Parent Cafes.

We know parents can benefit from feeling connected to their communities and other parents, so our Family Coaches are hosting periodic “Parent Cafés” in cities around the state. These events provide a platform – complete with a free meal and childcare – in which parents can network, suggest new ideas and share stories and solutions.

The Watford staff asked for additional information, and also volunteered to help with child care during local events.

In Dickinson, we connected with local Head Start staff about securing car seats for people in need. Now we’re planning collaborative opportunities to make car seats more readily available to area families.

Together, we can learn and grow. And Family-Strengthening Hubs are all about connection and community, vs. struggling to figure it out on your own.

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