Child well-being: Strong Families, Thriving Children

Children who experience adversity are 25 percent more likely to face lifelong physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral challenges. Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is working to break that cycle with Strong Families, Thriving Children – a comprehensive well-being approach to combat the negative effects of adversity and improve child development outcomes.

Strong Families, Thriving Children integrates decades of experience in improving outcomes for the most vulnerable kids with the latest, most promising scientific and clinical interventions available. This strengths-based approach is among the first to incorporate the assets and abilities of each child and family to improve safety, stability, progress toward milestones, developmental functioning, family connections and permanency.

Change in Mind

Change in Mind: Apply Neuroscience to Revitalize Communities is a three-year initiative of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the Norlien Foundation, to integrate established neuroscience research on the effects of life-altering toxic stress into community-based work. Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is the only children’s hospital in the nation chosen to participate in the 15-site Change in Mind initiative. As part of the initiative, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin will work to:

  • Enhance its Strong Families, Thriving Children child well-being framework to serve as a resource for policy makers on best practices for child abuse prevention, family preservation and child welfare.
  • Create additional capacity for evidence-based interventions by adding new staff trained at Children’s to deliver Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, a research-based intervention for young children with behavioral issues that emphasizes improving the quality of the parent-child relationship by changing parent-child interaction patterns.

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin was featured in a Chronicle of Social Change article about being selected to participate in Change in Mind, and the opportunity the initiative offers to better meet the needs of children who are affected by adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress.

Institute for Child and Family Well-Being

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Helen Bader School of Social Welfare partnered to develop the Institute for Child and Family Well-Being, an academic-community partnership to improve the lives of children and families facing adverse childhood experiences, such as violence, incarceration or extreme poverty.

There are enough kids in Milwaukee with two or more adverse childhood experiences to fill Miller Park, with another 6,000 waiting in line. Research has proven that childhood adversity actually interrupts kids’ brain development, causing increased likelihood of mental health problems, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency and teen pregnancy, in addition to poor long-term health outcomes and decreased academic achievement, which can lead to long-term employability issues.

Early interventions – a key part of the work being done at the Institute – can mitigate the consequences of childhood adversity by helping kids develop stable, caring relationships with parents and guardians, which are essential for healthy development. It is generally understood that it takes an average of 17 years for research evidence to reach clinical practice. The Institute’s academic-community partnership model will help accelerate the speed with which research on effective interventions is translated to clinical practices that can be utilized by Children’s Hospital practitioners. The Institute will also provide training, consultation and technical assistance to help human service agencies implement and replicate best practices for supporting children and families who are exposed to significant adversity.