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COUNTY CONNECTIONS: Promoting Child Abuse Prevention in Cook County

Mar 11, 2022 10:30AM ● By Editor

By Grace Bushard, Children and Family Services Supervisor from Cook County MN - March 11, 2022

Grace Bushard, Children and Family Services Supervisor.  Photo: Boreal file

Cook County Public Health and Human Services recognizes the importance of families and communities working together to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families and to prevent child abuse and neglect.  

Promoting social and emotional wellbeing

Research tells us that “protective factors” are important to healthy human develop and contribute greatly to family and child wellbeing.  Children who experience harm become more resilient, have a better chance of recovering and have a greater sense of wellbeing if they experience the benefit of protective factors.

Protective factors are conditions or attributes (skills, strengths, resources, supports or coping strategies) in individuals, families, communities or society that help people deal more effectively with stressful events and lessen or reduce the effects of harm to individuals, families and communities.

Minnesota Communities Caring for Children identifies the following research-informed protective factors that help keep families strong[i]
  • Nurturing and attachment. Small acts of kindness, protection and caring – a hug, a smile or loving words – make a big difference to children.
  • Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development. Parents learn what to look for at each age and how to help their children reach their full potential within their own cultural identity.  
  • Parental resilience. Recognizing the signs of stress and enhancing problem-solving skills can help parents continue to have courage during and after a crisis.  
  • Social connections. Parents with family, friends and neighbors to depend on have better support in times of need.
  • Concrete supports for parents. Caregivers with access to financial, housing and other concrete resources and services that help them meet their basic needs can better attend to their role as parents.

Protecting children and preventing child abuse

Here are some ways that you can bring protective factors to life and make a real difference to families and children:

  • Be a nurturing caregiver in a child’s life.
  • Offer to help parents in your social sphere. Babysitting, running errands, making dinner or doing light chores are all examples of the concrete support you can provide to friends, family members or neighbors.
  • Take care of yourself as a parent. Parenting can be stressful. Self-care and compassion are not optional activities, especially when life gets busy!
  • Ask for help. Everyone needs support, and there is no shame in building a network of people who have your back.
  • Volunteer! Connect with local youth-serving agencies and ask how you can support their work.  
  • Let parents know when they are doing a good job. Words of affirmation help parents feel seen and appreciated for their 24/7 efforts to raise the next generation.
  • Monitor your child’s media intake (and your own!). TV, YouTube and social media are not substitutes for caring relationships in a child’s life.  

Reporting Abuse or Neglect 
There are times when children are harmed, or you may be concerned about their safety. By calling and making a report, you can play an important role in the health of that family. When a report is received, it will be reviewed and the best approach for achieving safety will be determined. The goal is always to help the child be safe and remain with their family by helping parents and caregivers reduce stress and learn new ways of parenting.

To report concerns about child abuse, neglect or sexual abuse, contact Cook County Public Health & Human Services (PHHS) at 218-387-3620 during business hours and ask for the intake worker. If the child is in immediate risk of harm or for after-hours-reporting, contact the Sheriff’s Office at 218-387-3030 or dial 911.  

Learn More
Protecting our children is key to Cook County Public Health & Human Services’ mission of “supporting the health, safety and wellbeing of the community.”

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month in Cook County, and PHHS staff will give a presentation on locally available services at the March 15 PHHS Board Meeting. The meeting is available to live stream and view a recording on Cook County website at can also contact us via email at [email protected] or find us on Facebook @CookCountyPHHS, Instagram @cook_county_phhs  or visit our website at, to learn more about public health and human services resources in Cook County.  

For more information on national efforts to the prevent the abuse and neglect of children and promote services that improve child-wellbeing, visit

County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service

[i] Minnesota Communities Caring for Children.

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