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Poverty & Equity Thought Leadership

The Importance of Building and Measuring Resilience in Our Community

As we look back on the last two years, everyone has experienced challenges. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the negative mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue their impact through 2029. Families First knows the families we serve were already hurting, and their trauma has been made worse during the pandemic.

“I’ve got a full team of people here working on my behalf. All I have to do is hold up my end of the bargain too.” Darrell B., Families First Client 

We are seeing exciting progress with our clients with our wrap-around services focused on building resilience and ensuring they feel safer, more stable, and have access to the social and community support needed to move from surviving to thriving. Our families now benefit from new behavioral health assessments and services that help them learn to build psychosocial resilience. We pair our clinical services with a Navigator – a family quarterback – who stays at our families’ sides. We are meeting our clients where they are and helping them navigate to stability during unimaginable hardships. 

From March 2021 to October 2021, the Families First Navigator Model has served more than 90 households and impacted the lives of 379 individuals. Most of the individuals impacted were children and youth under 18 years of age (61%), while 39% were adults 18 years of age or older. The program has served more female clients (66%) than male clients (34%) and has also predominately served communities of color (97%).

Our team has helped families like Darrell’s build their resilience and create a support network. One of the first steps in our Navigator Model is the Families First Resiliency Needs Screener (FFRNS-14), a fourteen-item resilience screening tool that measures three main areas of psychosocial resilience including:

  1. Access to health and mental health services
  2. Connectedness – social health
  3. Future & goal orientation

We understand firsthand the needs of clients today, but we want to be intentional in helping people combat the needs of ‘tomorrow.’ The learned skills of resiliency can be passed along for generations to come.

Used as a first line of “Access” the Screener helps families and professional helpers understand their healthcare resources so that in time of need they can be connected and/or help others to access these essential resources. Access transcends socioeconomic status. 

Whether you have healthcare insurance or not, people usually do not dive deep into knowing all the services for which they are eligible. We tend to be reactive naturally because of shifting priorities in our day-to-today lives. Many become aware of some of these services once a crisis has occurred, but preventive care is nonexistent. Families First’s Navigators pair the “Access” score with a client’s assessment of the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) to customize a service plan that helps increase the scores in this area.

“Connectedness” is a protective factor for stress related diseases. It is also a protective factor for suicidal ideation, and mood disorders. Connectedness, bonds, and alliance is one of the most (if not the most) fundamental survival mechanisms of humankind. 

Individuals who can master social growth are capable of significant achievements. Connection with others is the grounds for empathy and collaboration to achieve any goal. This concept is best known as social intelligence, which is the ability to connect with others, establish new relationships, and maintain them all in a healthy manner. 

It takes mental health support to increase scoring in this category. Between social coaching and psychotherapeutic services, the practitioner should see improvements in this category. This is where we have seen some of the most compelling increases with clients. We know this is a vital part of the social determinants of health and how our clients can build their resilience. 

When asked, “I know people who can connect me to the resources I need in the community, we saw the following increase in just four months:

  • 11% to 54% agree that they now have these social and community connections 

  • 6% to 31% strongly agree that they now have social and community connections 

“Goal and Future Orientation” is a person’s ability to see their lives ahead. Ideally, future orientation is how a person views themselves in the future as achieving their aspirations or at least being on the right track to achieve their short and long-term goals. Next to connectedness, future orientation is a major motivator to making healthy changes in one’s life. A major barrier to psychosocial recovery is when the person has little to no vision or aspiration beyond what is currently happening in his/her life. 

The Practitioner can put together a customizable plan to foster the development of the client’s ability to establish goals and aspirations and prepare a plan towards the person’s goals and objectives. We are all ready for some normalcy. Emotional readiness however takes preparation and some planning. We have learned that events like natural disasters and health-related phenomena such as pandemics are factors that can reshape our lives. To help us prepare for what may come and cope better with changes you should consider checking your resiliency level and how you can increase your ability to handle tough challenges life brings.

We work closely with community partners to achieve success within our Navigator Care Model. Community partners have access to our FFRNS to measure the resiliency of their clients and work with us to put together comprehensive care plans and community connections. One example of the importance of community collaborations is the ReCast Grant in Lawrenceville. Families First is part of a coalition of community partners including the City of Lawrenceville, Impact46 and Georgia Center for Opportunity. With the five-year, $5-million federal grant from the Resiliency in Communities After Stress and Trauma (ReCast) program administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), this group is working together to increase access to mental health services and reduce trauma among high-risk youth and their families; increase access to social services; strengthen community relations; and increase diverse voices in city government. The five-year grant provides an opportunity to have exponential impact in the city and improve the quality of life for nearly all of Lawrenceville’s more than 30,000 residents.

We look forward to continuing to provide our families with the resources, support, and access to build their resilience in 2022.


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