Spearheaded by Lutheran Social Services, the Healthy Families initiative is aimed at expanding the already existing home visitation program to reach 25% more families, reducing barriers and increasing service access in rural areas. Healthy Families is a prevention program proven to prevent child abuse and neglect. The program works by reducing risk factors that lead to abuse, targeting families prenatally or within two weeks of birth, and providing weekly intensive home visits until the infant reaches the age of 3.
Healthy Families assesses family risk factors to provide early identification of overburdened families that may be at risk for child abuse/neglect or other poor childhood outcomes. The program utilizes screening protocols to identify poly-victimization and other issues. The program increases protective factors by enhancing nurturing and attachment, increasing knowledge of parenting and child/youth development and parental resilience, enhancing social connections, and providing concrete support that enables parents to better cope with stress and prevent situations where maltreatment could occur.
Community Awareness Project
Safer Tomorrows has developed a multi-media public awareness campaign, spearheaded by the City of Grand Forks and maintained by a communications coordinator. The campaign focuses on children’s exposure to violence (CEV) and is targeted to children of all ages, parents, caregivers, and the general public in Grand Forks County. The campaign raises awareness of healthy relationships, bullying, dating violence and delivers other positive messages. The Community Awareness project maintains the Safer Tomorrows website, which includes the following topics:
Information about the prevalence of CEV and the different types of violence
Resources and interactive tools for youth, parents, coaches and professionals
A comprehensive listing of local agencies and services with instructions on accessing services in Grand Forks City and in rural areas
Information for professionals on identification and screening for CEV
An interpreter resource list with access available to professionals
In addition to the website, many other forms of media, such as social media communication, are utilized to raise awareness of CEV and to inform the community about the Safer Tomorrows Project. Articles and resources for newsletters are also provided through various avenues.
Safer Tomorrows Coalition
The Safer Tomorrows Coalition mobilizes and coordinates all sectors responding to children’s exposure to violence (CEV) and improves the cross-agency response. The coalition includes collaborative partners and project advisors that work on various committees (stakeholders, prevention, intervention and data) and serve on working groups. These working groups enhance and strengthen the community’s response by holding strategy sessions to problem solve, recommend gap-focused training for specific needs and address issues such as mandatory reporting and enhancing cultural competency.
Rural Coalition & Service Delivery Sites
Spearheaded by the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department, the rural coalition ensures a strong focus on underserved rural areas in the county with regard to children’s exposure to violence (CEV) and coordinates efforts with the domestic/sexual violence rural Coordinated Community Response (CCR) Project. Additionally, the rural coalition has secured rural office locations from which professionals may provide services to rural clients.
Restorative Justice Program
Restorative Justice is a program facilitated by Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota. Restorative Justice expands existing Restorative Justice services designed to reduce student suspensions, decrease bullying, teasing and student conflict. Restorative Justice increases protective factors such as an intolerant attitude towards deviance, positive social orientation and parental involvement. The Restorative Justice Program promotes healing by helping to repair the harm caused by hurtful behavior, reduces risk factors by addressing high emotional distress, and minimizes the impact of violent victimization by addressing aggressive behavior, promoting parental involvement, and reducing association with delinquent peers.
By following best practices and protocol created during the project, the initiative includes an initial screening of types of violence experienced, including poly-victimization, and provides services such as accountability conferencing, “circle” processes, victim empathy seminars, and reintegration circles.
Specialized Therapeutic Services & Advocacy
Through Safer Tomorrows The Community Violence Intervention Center (CVIC) provides specialized therapeutic services designed to address gaps in services and reduce barriers to accessing services for victims of bullying, dating violence and sexual assault, as well as children exposed to domestic violence.
Child and adolescent therapists at CVIC conduct an initial screening for trauma, including poly-victimization, and provide appropriate therapies, as described below. The adolescent therapists increase access to services by working with the Grand Forks Public Schools, rural schools and Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota Day Report (a program for high-risk juvenile offenders who also experience victimization issues) and offer services at their locations. The following therapies are provided:
- • Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) — (ages 5-17)
- • Kids Club — (group curriculum, preschool to age 12)
- • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) — (ages 12-17)
- • Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress (SPARCS) (ages 12-17)
Therapies also include a parent component that promotes healing and positive coping skills, assertiveness and social skills. These therapies are proven to reduce chances of being bullied, reduce risk factors of poor behavioral control and antisocial beliefs and attitudes, address a history of violent victimization, and build the protective factor of positive social orientation. Additionally, there is a child and adolescent advocate who provides support and advocacy for children who experience violence along with their non-abusive parent(s) or caregiver(s).
Spearheaded by the Community Violence Intervention Center, this comprehensive training project aims to improve the response to children’s exposure to violence (CEV) by providing cross-training among agencies and promoting an increased understanding of available services and referral processes. The training staff works closely with the Safer Tomorrows Coalition working groups to identify training needs and plan training sessions for all disciplines that serve children exposed to violence. A summit will provide a full-day training workshop on issues related to CEV. In addition, a multi-agency speakers’ bureau conducts training and community awareness presentations.
Best Practices/Policy Review
A collaborative, multi-agency working group within the Community Violence Intervention Center, offers a review of local agency policies relating to organizational responses to children who are victimized by or witness violence. Research is conducted on relevant national best and promising practices in order to identify potential improvements to existing policies. Discussions of recommendations are offered to participating agencies to improve policies and enhance practices with regard to children’s exposure to violence, paying special attention to under-served populations.