A Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

Developing Community Resilience for Children and Families


Developing Community Resilience for Children and Families

Project Details

Abstract: 

Through focus-group studies with multiple stakeholders and through the analysis of existing data, these investigators developed measures of psychosocial resilience that are applicable to diverse communities and subgroups within the US population. The overarching goal of the project was to operationalize and quantify the concept of resilience, so that it is possible to assess the relative resilience of different communities and changes in resilience capacity over time, and also to intervene in order to enhance resilience. Given what is known about children's vulnerability, the project placed special emphasis on the needs of children.

Primary Findings: 

The START project resulted in a revised Community Assessment of Resilience Tool (CART), a community intervention that includes a survey instrument, focus groups script, and process for assessing and building community resilience to disasters. Seven community capacity and competence attributes were identified, refined, revised, and re-organized into four interrelated domains thought to affect community resilience to disasters: Connection and Caring, Resources, Transformative Potential, and Disaster Management. The current CART survey instrument consists of 21 core community resilience items along with demographics of respondents and additional questions dealing with issues of particular interest to participating organizations. The survey can be administered in person, over the telephone, by mail, or online. Results are used to develop a community profile from the perspective of respondents. The profile describes findings by domain and across domains. CART focus groups typically involve a homogenous or heterogeneous mix of community leaders, neighborhood groups, selected professionals, and/or representatives of community organizations. CART participants are surveyed prior to the focus group meeting and the survey results are discussed as part of the focus group. Focus group participants also explore the meaning of community and the community resilience domains in application to specific community concerns. CART is not a mechanism for ranking or comparing communities. Rather, CART provides a snapshot of strengths and challenges that are meaningful for the particular community and organizations participating in the CART process. The process engages community organizations in collecting and using assessment data to develop and implement strategies for building community resilience to disasters. CART is designed to stimulate communication, analysis, and action and to contribute to community participation and collaboration, community self-awareness, critical reflection, and skill development, Thus, CART is as much a method as a measure.

Methodology: 

Field testing, factor analysis, key informant interviews, emerging literature, and continued reflection were used to revise and refine CART. The initial survey instrument consisting of 42 core community resilience items was field tested with several samples included two rural church groups, a multi-agency community organization, and community-college students. A factor anlaysis of data from these initial field tests led to a revised survey instrument and additional field testing with volunteer community responders and key informants. Factor anlysis of data from these field tests and a combined analysis of common survey items from all field tests, along with theoretical considerations, resulted in the refinement and reframing of the original seven community capacity and competence attributes into four community resilience domains. An implementation of the CART survey in a random community sample representing a community of approximately 120,000 residents resulted in the development of a template for the CART community profile.

Timeframe

Project Period: 
June 2005 to May 2008