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March 2017Vol. 18, No. 1Community Cafés in Alaska Discuss Strengthening Families Initiative

Between January and June 2016, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) sponsored a series of community cafés in Anchorage, Hooper Bay, Kotzebue, Sitka, Sutton, and Wasilla. The cafés were attended by business leaders, educators, faith-community representatives, foster parents, grandparents, military personnel, parents, Tribal members, and youth, among others. One of the main goals of these gatherings was to facilitate a discussion about the Strengthening Families program and its five protective factors: parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete supports in times of need, and social and emotional competence of children. A new report from the Alaska DHSS presents the qualitative data collected at the cafés in order to inform and improve prevention and family support services in the State.

The community café discussions were conducted in small groups or used audience-response technology, which is a live polling technology using remote "clickers." Audience response allows participants to vote on an issue or topic anonymously and see results instantly displayed on a monitor. It also enables café facilitators to collect community feedback, analyze results, and rank the specific priorities of each Strengthening Families protective factor.

The findings and top priorities were similar across all community cafés and include the following:

  • Parental resilience—Participants emphasized the need for workplaces and employers to be more flexible, as well as the need to connect at-risk families with someone able to access services.
  • Social connections—Participants emphasized the need for more community gatherings and events that support the exchange of cultural traditions, language, stories, and skills.
  • Knowledge of parenting and child development—Participants emphasized the need for in-home coaching for new parents and support from elders and extended family.
  • Concrete supports in times of need—Participants emphasized the need for more local services, as well as a way to connect families with someone to help them access these services.
  • Social and emotional competence of children—Participants emphasized the need to help parents tend to their own emotional and personal needs, as well as help them provide a nurturing and loving environment for their children.

In addition to a general summary, the report, Let's Talk About Safe Kids and Strong Families!, includes a section on each community that highlights the methods, participants, and findings particular to that area.

The full report is available at (5,670 KB).

For more information about Strengthening Families, visit the website for the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) at The CSSP website also offers information on community cafés, parent cafés, and world cafés at