Log In

Definitions and Terms

Defining the Approach

What we mean by a Child Development and Prevention Approach: One reason that healthy child development is often difficult to promote and sustain is that no consensus exists on an umbrella term to encompass the varying aspects of the work. Depending on any number of factors, a wide range of programs and resources can come together in a coherent healthy child development and prevention initiative. What unites the diverse terms and constructs is an interest in proactively fostering healthy development of children and youth and promoting their capacity to flourish throughout their lives through supportive programs, policies, and system interventions.

This Action Guide:

  • Posits that an overall common framework of universal and comprehensive student supports and social and emotional development interventions is an effective way to unify these diverse stand-alone resources and to deploy them in the most effective ways.
  • Presents a set of experience-vetted practices for stakeholders to use to affect policy and especially to achieve sustainable funding. These practices can apply to whatever terms you and your Team are using to describe your school-based and school-community initiatives to foster healthy development of children and youth.

As we have noted, schools and districts implement a range of stand-alone programs to enhance students’ social skills or promote their mental health. These often operate as distinct initiatives, disconnected from one another. Our starting point is these distinct initiatives and programs that many schools already implement, often in partnership with communities.

Universal and comprehensive student supports and social and emotional learning and development may encompass, for example:

  • Programs labeled positive school discipline, conflict resolution, and civic engagement.
  • Structural change approaches that build safe and supportive school environments, for example, multi-tiered behavioral interventions and supports or trauma-sensitive school initiatives.
  • Various prevention programs that depend on how they initially define a problem:
    • Substance use prevention
    • Violence prevention
    • Pregnancy prevention
    • Bullying prevention
    • Suicide prevention
  • Practices that take place through a number of school-connected activities, such as:
    • Early intervention or screening programs
    • After-school programs
    • Summer learning programs
    • Family engagement programs
  • Initiatives that link schools and community-based health and behavioral programs with activities carried out by school-based support personnel such as:
    • School-based health centers (SBHCs), which exist at the intersection of education and health, provide prevention activities and health education in addition to care. Since SBHCs are often part of the public health safety net, creating alliances with them to ensure that they are part of the new environment can help advance universal school-based behavioral health promotion and comprehensive student supports.
    • School guidance counselors, school psychologists, and school nurses provide a range of individual services that highlight the need for more systemic interventions. In addition, they often anchor multiple school-based prevention-oriented initiatives to promote school health and behavioral health or supervise other programs.

Integrating the Puzzle Pieces: Some available Frameworks & Approaches


Reference: Graphic by J.F. Bogden for CHHCS

This puzzle includes many of the universal and comprehensive, social and emotional learning supports listed above, which schools and districts are likely to recognize. Many of them could be the starting point for your organizing framework.  The puzzle graphic seeks to offer a visual representation of how each puzzle piece is both a distinct approach and a part of a larger whole.

Whichever pieces you and your allies focus on, the policy-oriented actions in this Guide will help you move them from pilot project status to being part of more sustainable systems of support.

Social-Emotional Learning

Social and emotional learning (SEL) involves the processes through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. The short-term goals of SEL programs are to 1), promote students’ self-awareness, social awareness, relationship and responsible-decision-making skills; and 2), improve student attitudes and beliefs about self, others and school.[1]

Communities that Care

Communities that Care uses prevention science to promote healthy youth development and to guide local coalitions through a tested 5-phase process. It fosters young people’s well-being using a Social Development Strategy that promotes opportunities, skills, and recognition.[2]

Character Education

Character education teaches the habits of thought and deed that help people live and work together as families, friends, neighbors, communities and nations. It is a learning process that enables students and adults in a school community to understand, care about and act on core ethical values such as respect, justice, civic virtue and citizenship, and responsibility for self and others. Upon such core values, we form the attitudes and actions that are the hallmark of safe, healthy and informed communities that serve as the foundation of our society.[3]

Unified System of Learning Supports

Learning supports are the resources, strategies, and practices that provide the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual supports that directly address barriers to learning and teaching, and that re-engage disconnected students. To be most effective, learning supports are unified and developed into a comprehensive system that provides supportive interventions in classrooms and school-wide and are fully integrated with efforts to improve instruction and management at a school.[4]

Coordinated School Health

A Coordinated School Health program is an integrated set of planned, sequential school-affiliated strategies, activities, and services designed to promote the optimal physical, emotional, social, and educational development of students. The eight components of the framework include health education, physical education, health services, nutrition services, counseling, psychological and social services, healthy and safe school environment, health promotion for staff, and family/community involvement. It is coordinated by a multidisciplinary team and accountable to the community for program quality and effectiveness.[5]

Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports

PBIS provides a school wide systematic approach to preventing and improving problem behaviors and creating a positive school climate. It is a framework for creating and enforcing school wide behavioral expectations that delineates a range of interventions available to students based on their demonstrated level of need, and that concurrently addresses the role of the environment and its impact on the development of behavior problems.[6]

Community Schools

Community Schools are both a place and a set of partnerships between a school and other community resources, with an integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development, and community engagement. Schools become centers of the community and are open to everyone – all day, every day, evenings and weekends. Communities and schools leverage their shared physical and human assets to help children succeed.[7]

Health Promoting Schools

The World Health Organizations defines a health promoting school as one that fosters health and learning, engages health and education stakeholders at multiple levels, and strives to provide a healthy environment for students, families, and staff. Policies and practices that support wellbeing and success are an important component of a health promoting school.[8]

School Climate Interventions

A sustainable, positive school climate fosters youth development and learning necessary for a productive, contributing and satisfying life. This climate includes norms, values and expectations that support people feeling socially, emotionally and physically safe, and where students, families and educators work together to develop a shared school vision. A comprehensive assessment of school climate includes major spheres of school life such as safety, relationships, teaching and learning, and the environment as well as larger organizational patterns.[9]

Positive Youth Development

Positive Youth Development is a policy perspective that emphasizes providing services and opportunities to support all young people in developing a sense of a competence, usefulness, belonging and empowerment. While individual programs can provide youth development activities, the youth development approach works best when entire communities including young people are involved in creating a continuum of services and opportunities that youth need to grow into happy and healthy adults.[10]

Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model

The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Model is a framework that illuminates the connections between learning and health and that draws on the tenets of the ecological model. The WSCC illuminates how the whole school and the whole community are linked to the needs of the whole child and emphasizes the development of policies, processes and practices that move the approach from model to action.[11]

Interconnected Systems Framework

The Interconnected Systems Framework (ISF) develops the interconnection of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and School Mental Health (SMH) systems to improve educational outcomes for all children and youth, especially those with or at risk of developing mental health challenges by leveraging the individual strengths of each of these processes and producing enhanced teaching and learning environments through their strategic linkage.[12]

[1] http://www.casel.org/social-and-emotional-learning.
[2] http://www.communitiesthatcare.net/
[3] US Department of Education, http://www2.ed.gov/admins/lead/character/brochure.html
[4] UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools. http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/pdfdocs/whatis.pdf
[5] Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), The Case for Coordinated School Health. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/cshp/case.htm
[6] The Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). https://www.pbis.org/school/rti.
[7] http://www.communityschools.org/aboutschools/what_is_a_community_school.aspx.
[8] “School and School Health,” World Health Organization, http://www.who.int/school_youth_health/gshi/hps/en/
[9] National School Climate Center, http://www.schoolclimate.org/climate/
[10] Positive Youth Development, National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth (NCFY). www.ncfy.com
[11] http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/siteASCD/publications/wholechild/wscc-a-collaborative-approach.pdf
[12] “Advancing Education Effectiveness: Interconnecting School Mental Health and Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports,” http://www.pbis.org/common/cms/files/pbisresources/Final-Monograph.pdf

Updated June 2015

Leave Us A Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.