Wichita State University’s Community Engagement Institute (WSU-CEI) is part of a coalition to better the lives of children by encouraging workplaces to establish family-friendly practices.
The Power of the Positive, a coalition that includes Wichita State and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) to prevent child maltreatment, encourages employers to create workplace policies that foster healthy family relationships.
“Workplaces are in a unique position to create success for parents,” said Anne Maack, early childhood initiatives coordinator for WSU-CEI. “They can provide things that are good for families and the lifelong health outcomes of children.”
Maack said the purpose of the Power of the Positive coalition is to prevent adverse childhood experiences (ACE). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines these experiences as traumatic childhood events such as violence, abuse, neglect, or living in a household with substance misuse and mental health problems. There is a link between adverse childhood experiences and long-term health conditions such as cancer, asthma, arthritis and depression.
Due to the link between ACE and long-term health conditions, the KDHE leads the efforts on the Child Maltreatment Prevention Plan through the Essentials for Childhood grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wichita State is a sub-recipient of the grant tasked with community engagement activities and receives $92,000 annually.
The Power of the Positive promotes flexible work schedule, predictable work schedule, childcare, paid parental leave, continued breastfeeding, comprehensive employee wellness, stronger family bonds and livable wages.
Maack provided an example from the 2020 Child Maltreatment Prevention Plan about how workplace conditions impact familial bonds. She said that in terms of comprehensive employee wellness, of new mothers who thought they needed counseling for depression but didn’t get it, 46.1% indicated the reason was that they didn’t have time to do so because of a job or other commitment.
“We want to see that number go down. Parental depression is one of the ACEs. But no matter how excellent our mental health services are, we can’t drive that number down without family friendly workplaces. If our efforts are successful, fewer new mothers will report that the barrier to getting help was her job,” Maack said.
The WSU-CEI’s main role in the project is to ensure there are partners who will extend the life of the effort and bring on more people in understanding the role workplaces have in child maltreatment prevention.
“What will contribute to sustaining the effort after the CDC funds are gone, has to do with engaging partners,” Maack said. “The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce is on board and is committed to providing resources for workplaces to be more family friendly. The fact that they are involved gives it longevity.”
The WSU-CEI also takes on a small part of the evaluations. The CEI’s Center for Applied Research and Evaluation (CARE) collects data from the public engagement and education campaign evaluations. This campaign is focused on increasing public awareness to address societal factors that lead to nurturing environments for children. Additionally, CARE monitors coalition accomplishments using a system that tracks activities and ensures that they are the types of activities that are essential in achieving community change.
To learn more about the Kansas Power of the Positive and the State of Kansas Child Maltreatment Prevention Plan, visit www.kansaspowerofthepositive.org.