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April 2015Vol. 16, No. 3A Comparison of Two Protective Factors Approaches

Protective factors are strengths and resources that may mediate or serve as a buffer against risk factors that contribute to maltreatment. These factors may strengthen parent-child relationships, a family's ability to cope with stress, and parents' capacity to provide for children. Studies have shown that in order to successfully ensure child well-being, interventions need to not only reduce families' risk factors but also increase their protective factors. There are several different approaches programs, agencies, and professionals can use to promote protective factors. A new factsheet developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) provides information on two approaches: CSSP's Strengthening Families™ and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Essentials for Childhood.

The factsheet begins by highlighting the commonalities between the two approaches. Both aim to ensure that children have safe, stable, and nurturing relationships with their parents and caregivers. They both also work toward shifts in families' environments to help ensure that children and families have safe, stable, and nurturing experiences in their larger social context. This, in turn, helps promote these same factors in their more intimate family settings. The differences between the two approaches are primarily concerned with where interventions are implemented within a family's environmental sphere. For example, Strengthening Families aims to affect families by intervening in the programs and systems that interact with families, such as child welfare and education systems. Essentials for Childhood seeks to influence families via larger environmental context by effecting change in the communities in which they live. This could include, for example, ensuring access to affordable child care or physical and mental health care.

The factsheet discusses the benefits of implementing both frameworks simultaneously, as well as some issues to consider when doing so. Benefits can include the following:

  • The Strengthening Families leadership team provides a strong cross-systems base for the collective impact approach needed for Essentials for Childhood.
  • The Essentials for Childhood framework provides a broad "umbrella" that many different strategies can fit under, and Essentials goal areas can apply to prevention work in many areas, including the Strengthening Families Protective Factors.

To access the factsheet Essentials for Childhood and Strengthening Families, visit the CSSP website at (166 KB).

For more information on Strengthening Families and Essentials for Childhood, view their jointly sponsored webinar at;jsessionid=abc8jX9w7b6oHdjLGhjWu.

You can also download the webinar presentation slides at (1 MB).

To read more about protective factors approaches, read Child Welfare Information Gateway's issue brief Protective Factors Approaches in Child Welfare, available at

Related Item

Both the Strengthening Families and Essentials for Childhood approaches are discussed in detail in the 2015 Prevention Resource Guide: Making Meaningful Connections, highlighted in this month's Children's Bureau Express. Read more in the article "April Is National Child Abuse Prevention Month."