In 2012, the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) awarded DSG a contract to review the research on protective factors relevant to the populations they serve. These populations include

  • Infants, children, and adolescents who are victims or are at risk of child abuse and neglect
  • Runaway and homeless youth
  • Youth in or transitioning out of foster care
  • Children and youth exposed to domestic violence
  • Pregnant and parenting teens

The purpose of this effort was to provide a foundation for the development of a protective factors framework that could inform programs and policy to improve outcomes for these populations. The effort included both an extensive review of the research literature on protective factors and substantive input from a national expert panel, federal agency officials, and practitioners working with the ACYF population groups.


Protective factors are those strengths and supports that help youth and families get through negative exposure or life experiences without negative consequences—in other words, they can increase resilience. To better understand where these protective factors fit in the social world of youth and families, they were organized in three levels:

  • Individual (e.g., personal characteristics, knowledge, skills)
  • Family and close social connections (e.g., family relationships, supportive adults, supportive peers)
  • Community (e.g., available services, school characteristics, community social and economic resources).

Products developed included graphic models to highlight those factors that have the most evidence at the individual, family, and community levels. The effort also included the development of recommendations to inform current and future efforts to infuse knowledge of protective factors in ACYF policies and practices.

Products developed for the project include a literature review of the protective factors associated with each population of interest (see Appendix 2 for matrices of the literature identified for each population). Graphic models were also developed that highlight those factors that have the most evidence at the individual, family, and community levels for each of the populations (see Appendix 3). A Brief for Researchers was also developed, based on the literature review.


For more information about the ACYF Project, contact DSG President Marcia Cohen at or 301.951.0056.