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Kentucky Strengthening Families

What is KYSF?

Kentucky Strengthening Families Tree logo

Kentucky Strengthening Families (KYSF) represents a multi-disciplinary partnership of over 20 national, state and local, and public and private organizations dedicated to embedding six research-based Protective Factors into services and supports for children and their families. Supporting families is key strategy for promoting school readiness and preventing child abuse and neglect. All families experience times of stress, and research demonstrates that children grow and learn best in families who have the supports and skills to deal with those times. By supporting families and building their skills to cope with stressors, we can increase school readiness and reduce the likelihood abuse will occur in families. Kentucky Strengthening Families is using a nationally recognized strategy—Strengthening Families: A Protective Factors Framework – which is coordinated by the Center for the Study of Social Policy.

Key Aspects of Kentucky's Work

In Kentucky Strengthening Families, we have a shared commitment to:

  • Promoting strong families and healthy development for families prenatally through age five
  • Partnering with all families and celebrating differences
  • Using protective factors as a strengths-based philosophy to buffer for toxic stress
  • Building knowledge and skills for individual and system change
  • Creating safe, stable and nurturing environments for people to have responsive and caring relationships

KYSF is funded by the Governor’s Office for Early Childhood (GOEC) through the Race to the Top/Early Learning Challenge Grant Program and the Kentucky Department for Public Health through the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Grant Program.

A Framework for Supporting Kentucky's Families

Mobilizing partners, communities and families to build family strengths, promote optimal development, increase school readiness, and reduce child abuse and neglect.

Families that can cope with the stresses of everyday life, as well as the occasional crisis, find strength and bounce back when life gets difficult. Sometimes, it takes a little extra help to get through challenges like having a car break down, managing your child’s difficult behavior or dealing with a health condition. Families who have support from friends or know where to go for help can bounce back and model behavior for their children.

The protective factors lay the foundation for the Strengthening Families framework. The protective factors identified for Kentucky are:

Parental Resilience: Families bounce back. Managing stress and moving forward when faced with challenges, adversity and trauma.

Social Connections: Families have friends they can count on. Having positive relationships that provide emotional, informational and spiritual support.

Knowledge of Child Development: Families learn how their children grow and develop. Understanding child development and parenting strategies that advance physical, cognitive, language, social and emotional development.

Concrete Support in Times of Need: Families get assistance to meet basic needs. Accessing resources that address a family's basic needs, resulting in minimizing stress caused by challenges.

Social and Emotional Competence of Children: Families teach children how to have healthy relationships. Establishing family and child interactions that help children develop the ability to recognize, communicate, and regulate their emotions.

Nurturing and Attachment: Families ensure children feel loved and safe. Fostering a nurturing family environment where young children develop secure bonds with caring adults.


In 2001, with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) began studying the role that early child care and education programs nationwide can play in strengthening families and preventing abuse and neglect. The Strengthening Families conceptual framework involves building research-based Protective Factors around young children by working differently with their families across all child- and family-serving organizations and systems. This approach includes aligning systems with protective factors, using data driven decision-making, marshaling leadership and making policy and systems changes on multiple levels.

In 2013, the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood and the Kentucky Department for Public Health convened a group inclusive of many organizations that touch families to explore the implementation of the Strengthening Families framework. These organizations represented by the leadership team below made a commitment to embed the protective factors in the daily practice of government and community-based programs. In January 2014, the Leadership Team developed a strategic plan to move the Kentucky Strengthening Families initiative forward in the Commonwealth.