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Natural Supports

What are Natural Supports?
Before we talk about what they are, it is important to understand what they are not. Natural supports or helping networks are not self-help groups or professional-formal interventions. They are informal and may move through several iterations of members, purposes and processes over time. Natural helping networks are made up of combinations of people such as friends, relatives, coworkers, coaches or faith-based persons who are linked to the child, youth or their family. Not all of the natural supports may necessarily know one another. The networks can be centered around one individual or a group of individuals, such as a neighborhood-based network.

Natural supports address needs defined by their members, not by others. They empower the people to whom they are connected. Throughout the association with natural supports, children, youth, and their families come to think differently about themselves and then to act on those differences. Children, youth, and their families can be connected or reconnected to existing networks, which will provide support that will outlast the provider–youth relationship. Natural helping networks are the first line of defense for most youth and families in crisis.

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