Many families face challenges that can prevent them from being successful and living the life they desire. Major setbacks such as job loss, illness and injury, can lead to loss of income and even homelessness. In other situations, families are struggling to make ends meet due to low wages and the rising cost of living. One unexpected expense, like a car repair or a trip to the emergency room could spell financial disaster. Often the daily demands of managing a household and raising a family combined with financial insecurity can lead to overwhelming feelings of despair. Many individuals are unaware of the resources available to them or simply don’t know who to ask. As a community, how do we address this issue?

One option is family advocacy, a program that builds family resiliency by helping families achieve and maintain stability through community referrals, home visitation to monitor progress, and ongoing emotional support and encouragement. It creates an important partnership of mutual respect and support between the family advocate and the participating family. Initially the family advocate helps the family identify and prioritize their needs. Once the needs have been determined, goals are established. The family advocate then works with the family to break down each goal into manageable steps. In some cases, the family advocate can assist the family directly with their goals, like budgeting, time management and organization. Other times a family’s needs may involve housing, transportation, food assistance, medical or mental health care, in which case connecting families with community resources would be more appropriate.

Jenell Boyer, BSW, family advocate at Children’s Aid Society.

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