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Cook County Connections: Safe and Strong - Supporting Children and Families in Cook County

Mar 17, 2023 09:09AM ● By Content Editor
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From Cook County, Minnesota & Pinwheels for Prevention - March 17, 2023

By: Grace Bushard, Children and Family Services Supervisor


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.  Working together as a community helps our children and families to be safe and strong.

Promoting social and emotional well-being

Research tells us that “protective factors” are important to healthy human development and contribute greatly to family and child well-being. Children who have experienced harm become more resilient, have a better chance of recovering, and have a greater sense of well-being and safety 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 and for parents and caregivers too!
  • Knowledge of parenting and child and youth development: Supporting parents in learning what to look for at each age and how to help their children reach their full potential within their own cultural identity contributes greatly to the strength of the family. 
  • Parental resilience: Recognizing the signs of stress and enhancing problem-solving skills can help parents continue to have the courage and capacity to respond after a challenging situation.
  • 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.

Supporting children and families when there may be harm

Here are some ways that you can be part of a child or family’s safety net and make a real difference:

  • 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 is a demanding job. Self-care and compassion help ease the stress and allow you to find rest and enjoy your family.
  • Ask for help. Everyone needs support, and although it may be difficult, 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, TikTok, 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 and safety of a 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 well-being of the community.”

To find more information on resources and services for families with young children, visit the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic Early Childhood Connections site at:

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month in Cook County, and PHHS staff will give a presentation on locally available services at the March 21 PHHS Board Meeting. The meeting is available to live stream and view a recording on Cook County website at You 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 prevent the abuse and neglect of children and promote services that improve child well-being, 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