Health and Human Services

703-324-2537 TTY 771
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 552
Chris Leonard
Deputy County Executive

3 to Succeed

Fairfax County Youth Survey results indicate that when children and youth have 3 or more
positive, protective factors
in their lives, they are more likely to:

Manage Stress

Make Better Choices

Develop Healthy Habits

“Protective Factors” refers to the supports, opportunities and relationships our youth need across all aspects of their lives to achieve their potential. They also include personal skills, commitments and values they need to make good choices, take responsibility for their own lives, and be independent and fulfilled. Six areas that Fairfax County looks at in conjunction with the Youth Survey include:

  • Having high personal integrity
  • Having community adults to talk to
  • Performing community service
  • Participating in extracurricular activities
  • Having teachers recognize good work
  • Having parents available for help

There are many more “Protective Factors” then just those listed above. The Search Institute – a nationally-recognized non-profit youth research organization – has outlined 40 protective factors (they term “developmental assets”) that youth need to thrive.

No matter who you are and what role you play in the lives of the children and youth you interact with, there are easy ways to help them excel. Some examples include:


  • Be available to help
  • Know where your children are
  • Involve your children in family decision-making
  • Show respect for all family members
  • Communicate clear disapproval of drug and alcohol use


  • Recognize and praise good effort
  • Present opportunities to talk one-on-one
  • Discourage bullying and cultivate a feeling of safety
  • Foster open communication with parents, even when students are doing well

Neighbors, Coaches, Community Youth Leaders:

  • Be a caring community member who is available to talk
  • Communicate clear disapproval of drug and alcohol use
  • Encourage participation in after-school activities
  • Give positive feedback and recognize good effort

3 to Succeed checklist

YES! Whether you believe it or not, our children and youth are watching and listening - the Youth Survey proves it! One of the strongest predictors of whether youth participate in risky behaviors (such as drinking alcohol – see example below) is what their parents and other adults in the community think about it. In the example below, 94% of students who thought that their parents disapproved of them drinking alcohol, didn’t drink.

Three to Succeed parental perception alcohol

Additionally, the Youth Survey clearly shows that students who say that there are caring adults present in their lives are significantly less likely to be engaged in risky behaviors or report poor mental health conditions.

Three to Succeed caring adults

  • Mental Health and Resiliency – Information from Fairfax County Public Schools on how adults can help youth foster positive relationships, develop resiliency as a response to adversity, and increase their capacity to cope
  • Bounce Back Project – This Buffalo, NY-area initiative focuses on simple tools we can use to help focus on the positive and increase well-being.
  • 1-2-3 Care Toolkit – This toolkit for parents and other caregivers, from Spokane Regional Health District, has tons of great tips and ideas. Be sure to check out the Resilience section.
  • Talk. They Hear You. – This mobile app from the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helps prepare parents for talking to your kids about the dangers of alcohol.
  • Know Bullying - This mobile app from the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration empowers parents, caregivers, and educators with the tools they need to start the conversation with their children about bullying.
  • Marijuana Talk Kit - From the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, this toolkit provides parents what they need to know to talk with their teens about marijuana.

Whether you are a parent, a professional service provider or a supporting cast member in the lives of children and youth, the information and resources provided here are valuable tools for building awareness of the critical role adults have in the lives of children and youth in Fairfax County. We’ve prepared a number of ways you can help us spread the word about “3 to Succeed”—including printed handouts, graphics, video and other social media content. Please check out our tools below and feel free to share as widely and as frequently as you desire!

  • Read and share these graphics, designed for print and sharing on social media:
Fairfax Virtual Assistant