Formal and informal services and supports help families promote their children’s good health, on-track development and school success.

Formal Supports are services that help families obtain necessities, such as:

  • Food
  • Housing
  • Income
  • Child care

Formal supports increase families’ abilities to deal with adversity and instability and contribute to children’s overall well-being.1

Children living in families with incomes below the poverty line face many obstacles to school success and early literacy, including:

  • Parental unemployment2
  • Housing instability or insufficiency3
  • Hunger or inadequate nutrition4
  • Toxic stress5

Family income is nearly as strong a predictor of children’s achievement as is parents’ education.6

Informal Supports are responsive and supportive social networks, services and institutions, such as:

  • Extended family
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Peer support or mentorship groups
  • Faith-based groups

Families connected to supportive informal networks and services are:

  • Strengthened in their parenting
  • Likely to have better health, well-being and resilience
  • Better able to expose their children to activities and educational opportunities that will help them succeed7

Show 7 footnotes

  1.  Alliance for Early Success. (n.d.). Bridging State Policies for Children and Families. Retrieved February 27, 2017 from
  2.  Georgia Family Connection Partnership. (2015). Building a Path to Reading Proficiency. Retrieved from
  3.  Schorr, L. and Marchand, V. (2007). Pathway to Children Ready for School and Succeeding at Third Grade. Retrieved from
  4.  Georgia Family Connection Partnership: Building a Path to Reading Proficiency, op cit.
  5.  Center on the Developing Child. (n.d.). Toxic Stress Derails Healthy Development. Retrieved from
  6.  Annie E Casey Foundation (2013). Early Warning Confirmed: A Research Update on Third-Grade Reading. Retrieved from
  7.  Center for the Study of Social Policy. (2013). Social Connections: Protective and Promotive Factors. Retrieved from

Read More About This Issue

of children lived in households spending more than 30% of income on housing costs in 2016

NC Child Health Report Card 2018

of NC kindergartners are homeless (2013-14)

DPI Statistical Profile (2013-14)

of NC children under age five benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

What Can We Do About It?

What supports families?

  • Increasing family income, particularly for very low-income families with young children
  • Improving work supports, such as family and medical leave, health insurance and child care subsidies (see Family Forward NC)
  • Making it easier to access public benefits to support basic needs
  • Expanding trauma-informed policy and practice

Research-based based policies, practices and programs that providers, communities and North Carolina can take to ensure families are supported.

Featured Resources

More About Supports for Families