Polk County Decategorization

Increasing Protective Factors With
Community Resources

Protective factors can increase the well-being of children and families while also reducing the risk of child maltreatment. Protective factors help families to find resources, supports, or coping strategies that allow them to function effectively, even under stress.

Research supports six protective factors:

  1.  Nurturing and attachment within families
  2.  Knowledge of effective parenting skills and child development
  3.  Parents’ stress resiliency and coping skills
  4.  Social network of supportive friends, family, and neighbors
  5Concrete supports to fulfill basic family needs
  6.  Social and emotional competence of children

These protective factors and the research supporting them are outlined more extensively in the Preventing Child Maltreatment and Promoting Well-Being: A Network for Action 2013 Resource Guide developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Follow the bulleted links to learn about organizations, services and supports in Polk County, Iowa that can help families increase the 6 protective factors. Informational resources are also included.

1.  Nurturing and attachment within families

A child's early experience of being nurtured and developing a bond with a caring adult affects all aspects of behavior and development. When parents and children have strong, warm feelings for one another, children develop trust that their parents will provide what they need to thrive, including love, acceptance, positive guidance, and protection. 

Attend family events together
- Be involved with school activities
- Engage both parents in parenting
- Find a family therapy provider
- Learn ways to connect with your child
- Establish family routines and traditions

2.  Knowledge of effective parenting skills and child development

Children thrive when parents provide not only affection, but also respectful communication and listening, consistent rules and expectations, and safe opportunities that promote independence. Successful parenting fosters psychological adjustment, helps children succeed in school, encourages curiosity about the world, and motivates children to achieve.

- Build your parenting skills
- Learn about child development
- Help your children succeed in school
- Look for special needs resources
- Praise your children for good behaviors
- Encourage your children to learn, explore and try new things

3.  Parents’ stress resiliency and coping skills

Parents who can cope with the stresses of everyday life, as well an occasional crisis, have resilience; they have the flexibility and inner strength necessary to bounce back when things are not going well. Multiple life stressors may reduce a parent's capacity to cope effectively with the typical day-to-day stresses of raising children. 

- Build your stress management skills
- Ask for help during a family crisis
Address substance abuse
- Build your communication skills
- Seek mental health support
4.  Social network of supportive friends, family, and neighbors

Parents with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family, and neighbors often find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves. Most parents need people they can call on once in a while when they need a sympathetic listener, advice, or concrete support.

- Stay in touch with friends and family
- Build new relationships and connections
- Attend community events and activities
- Join groups: clubs, teams, classes, etc.
- Mend broken relationships
5.  Concrete supports to fulfill basic family needs
Families who can meet their own basic needs for food, clothing, housing, and transportation—and who know how to access essential services such as childcare, health care, and mental health services to address family-specific needs—are better able to ensure the safety and well-being of their children.

- Learn about public assistance options
- Find community agencies that can help fill basic needs (food, clothing, housing, etc.)
Access healthcare resources
- Utilize resources to find/keep employment
- Learn about transportation options

- Seek out childcare resources
Advocate to establish new needed services

6.  Social and emotional competence of children

Parents support healthy social and emotional development in children when they model how to express and communicate emotions effectively, self-regulate, and make friends. A child's social and emotional competence is crucial to sound relationships with family, adults, and peers.

- Model effective emotional expression and social skills for your children
- Learn about social/emotional development
- Provide creative ways to express emotions
- Comfort your child when they feel distress