Improving Mental, Behavioral and Academic Supports to Students and Families

Background: Safe and Supportive Schools

Mental health challenges among our nation’s youth is a growing public health concern, as recent studies reveal an alarming increase in the number of adolescents reporting persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, suicidal ideation and attempted suicide. Creating safe and supportive school environments is critical for the overall well-being and success of students, providing positive outcomes. When students feel secure in their surroundings, they are more likely to participate in their academic success, form positive social connections at school and home, and are less likely to engage in harmful behaviors and report feelings of stress and anxiety.

Establishing this type of learning environment requires a collaborative approach between schools, families and the community. Family engagement has been identified as a key component in efforts to cultivate positive and inclusive learning environments where students feel welcome, seen and heard. In 2021, CDC Foundation entered into a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support youth mental health and well-being through family engagement, providing opportunities to hear directly from parents and caregivers about their perspectives and attitudes on matters that may impact their child’s school experiences, mental health and overall wellbeing. Fostering an environment that values respect, understanding and where each student feels included contributes to academic achievement and fosters the growth and resilience of students.

About the project:

Through this project, the CDC Foundation is working to empower families by:

  • providing opportunities to hear directly from them on their concerns around school and education-related topics that may impact youth mental health and wellbeing;
  • sharing the key findings with parents and caregivers as well as organizations that serve the school community;
  • gathering information on the types of support and resources they perceive to be the most beneficial to support youth mental health and wellbeing;
  • using the feedback from parents and caregivers to develop resources to support youth mental health and wellbeing;
  • and disseminating the resources either directly to parents and caregivers or to organizations that serve the school community.

Successful parent engagement involves establishing meaningful partnerships that empower parents to actively contribute to their child's academic and social development. During the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 academic years, the CDC Foundation partnered with the National PTA to hear directly from parents and caregivers on their knowledge, attitudes and beliefs on a variety of topics related to their child’s education and safe and supportive learning environments. The key findings from the surveys were released by the National PTA through a series of press releases and in two virtual town halls. Additionally, the 2022-2023 data were added to an interactive dashboard developed by McGeeney Consulting Partners, LLC. The dashboard allows users to filter between topic area, demographics, and survey waves.


Conference Materials

For the 2023 American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting & Expo, a poster and supplemental resource were created with the goal of: 

  • describing parental concerns about school violence and parental preferences for school emergency preparedness and
  • discussing potential modifications to school emergency preparedness protocols to improve parental satisfaction.

View and download these conference materials.


Media Literacy Campaign Materials

During the 2022 – 2023 academic year, the CDC Foundation also partnered with The Public Good Projects, an organization specializing in public health communications, to support promotion of safe and supportive learning environments for students and improved media literacy skills for parents. Through this partnership, a number of resources were developed to support improved media literacy skills, enabling parents to become better consumers of online information on matters related to their child’s school or education in general.

View and download these resources.


This webpage about Improving Mental, Behavioral and Academic Supports to Students and Families, Part 2, is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $1,939,999 with 100 percent funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, CDC/HHS, or the U.S. Government.

Program Description: To improve mental, behavioral and academic support to students, families and teachers by sharing resources and information about COVID-19.
Funding Partners:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Program Location:
  • United States of America