All children need the support of a family. Family Support is the first, and perhaps most fundamental, need of children. Children are dependent on families to provide for their basic material needs, protect them from harm, and nurture them. Families should be the primary source of the child’s physical, social-emotional, and spiritual development. Families impart skills and instill values. Without the support of a family and the competent care of a nurturing adult, children may find it difficult to thrive – or even survive – to reach their full potential. In a perfect world all children would be raised in the context of a caring, competent family.
Fortunately most children receive adequate support from their families. But high-functioning families and measured, informed parenting skills are not necessarily a naturally occurring phenomena. The broader society – faith communities, schools, social service agencies, and governmental policies – can all contribute to strengthening the family system. As children exist in the context of the family, so too do families exist in the context of communities.
While strong, skilled families can – and should – be promoted as the goal for all children, there are many children for whom adequate family support is at issue. Poverty undermines the ability of many families to provide for the basic material needs of their children. Teen pregnancy puts families on a trajectory toward poverty and diminishes the likelihood that parents will have the maturity and skill to parent effectively. Single-parent households can predispose children to certain risks, and increase the burdens and stresses on the custodial parent. Mental health issues and substance abuse can undermine effective family functioning. For these children and families especially, adequate family support is crucial to their quality of life.