Jobs and child abuse

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On the surface, jobs, child abuse, and neglect appear to have nothing in common, other than sharing awareness campaigns during the same month. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. It’s also Second Chances Month, when many organizations, like Prison Fellowship, bring attention to helping citizens returning from incarceration reenter society and get back into the workforce.

Better Together and the families we serve know that these issues are deeply intertwined.

That’s why we created the Better Jobs program. We started it when we realized that 76% of the families we serve could trace their crisis back to job loss.

On April 20, Better Together will host its fourth annual Nationwide Day of Second Chances, when churches across the country hold simultaneous job fairs designed to help folks who have barriers to employment, such as incarceration or a lack of child care or transportation, find meaningful work. It’s the signature event of our Better Jobs program.

Even in today’s labor market, job seekers with barriers to employment have difficulty finding work. Rejection after rejection can lead to depression and trigger health problems or other mental health issues, which can lead to self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, eventually leading to child neglect or abuse. There are many paths that can lead a family from job loss to foster care. Job loss can lead to homelessness, which can lead to involvement by the Department of Children and Families.

Money may not buy happiness, but poverty puts additional stress on parents. If they don’t have a good support system to help them handle those stressors, that can lead to neglect and abuse.

One study of children during the Great Recession found that “child abuse survivors whose mothers are unemployed have increased risk for psychological symptoms.” A study that looked at economic hardship and rates of violence, including child abuse, found unemployment was the second strongest economic risk factor, behind foreclosure rates, for all types of violence.

Better Jobs is our first prevention piece in keeping families together and out of the foster care system.

We often think of our work in relation to a river. Foster care steps in when families have fallen into the river and are quickly approaching Class 5 rapids. Our Better Families program catches families before they get to that point. Maybe they’re experiencing homelessness, need treatment for an addiction or have a medical emergency. A host family cares for the children short-term while the parents get back on their feet. Our mentors are able to pull families out of the water even earlier. Better Jobs can catch them while the waters are still calm.

The effects of meaningful work benefit all families.

Take Gavin. He wasn’t in trouble with the state, but he could see his family unraveling after seven months of unemployment when he attended a Better Jobs job fair in late 2021. His mental health had declined, his marriage strained. He landed a job from that event and credits finding work with saving his marriage.

“I’m certainly in a much better place mentally, and it’s just helped me out tremendously,” Gavin says. “…At the end of the day, I can come home and I’ve pulled my weight.”

Since that job fair, Gavin’s boss, Steven Russell of Creative Architectural Resin Products Inc., or CARP, has told us several times how Gavin has become a pivotal part of his team.

“I believe in second chances,” Russell says. “I myself have been given plenty in life, and I just wanted to give them a chance.”

With meaningful work and a strong support system, a parent is better able to weather the storms life brings their way and avoid the river of crisis. This is how Better Jobs and Better Families work together in building strong families and strong communities.

Join us in our mission. The need is great. Maybe you can take a child into your home as a host family or serve as a mentor and friend to a parent going through a tough time. Maybe your company needs the hard-working, driven employees attracted to our job fairs. Or maybe your church could host a job fair or provide job coaching.

Together, we can help families and communities thrive.

Take the first step to volunteer

Join Nationwide Day of Second Chances


Posted April 1, 2023

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