Helping Kids Succeed What are "Webs of Support?"

The data is clear – young people with five or more caring adults in their web are more likely to engage in positive behaviors and less prone to take part in risk-taking behaviors. They are also much more likely to live successful lives as adults.

Forming and supporting strong webs of support for youth creates high-impact leverage points for an entire community.

  • Young people with strong webs are less likely to engage in risky or negative health impact behaviors, and more likely to achieve positive academic, social and occupational outcomes.
  • The impact of individual and family mental health issues, for example, is reduced if the child or family has a strong web of support.
  • A strong web of support is a better predictor of student performance and academic achievement – and eventual adult success – than other typical measures, including race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, family composition, etc.
  • Long term, adults with strong webs of support are more successful and productive, and less likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors, making the overall community a more positive place to live.

Helping Kids Succeed Elements of a Web of Support

Each young person needs at least five anchors in their life. The HKS model calls this the "Rule of 5." We use the color Red to illustrate anchors in the model.

  • What are anchors? Adults who: demonstrably care about the well-being of the child; believe the child is capable of more than they think themselves capable of; and can parent, teach, coach, mentor, etc. the child into those high expectations.
  • Anchors weave a web by providing boundaries, offering support, teaching skills, celebrating achievement, providing opportunities, and filtering out the negative influences found in the world.

This web is created with strands of support we call "strings".

  • Tangible strings (the color Orange) can be measured, like a safe, warm home; boundaries and consequences; ease of reading, etc.
  • Intangible strings (the color Yellow) are character qualities, such as integrity, compassion, humility, caring, vision, delay of gratification, etc.
  • The more strings a youth has, from the Anchors in their life, the stronger their web becomes. Strong webs mean kids are more likely to "bounce back" or develop resilience to deal with the challenges in their life.

Kids have to "know it before they can grow it." They need to see the connections around them, to catch those strings. Kids who don't see those connections, can't catch what's being tossed to them.

Youth choose their Anchors! We can create connections with young people, but they determine who's in their web of support.

When we give HKS presentations, we use a Green balloon to illustrate a young person "bouncing on their web" of support.

  • Some balloons are bigger than others – some kids are just born more naturally resilient than others.
  • Some kids are smaller balloons. It's easier for them to “fall through” the gaps in their web, especially if they don't have many Anchors in their life.
  • We want to help "grow the balloon", but one of the best ways to do so is by helping them grow their web.

Powerful negative forces can act upon a young person’s web. The HKS model calls these stressors "scissor cuts" (the color Blue) which cut through the web of support.

  • Drug use, bullying, alcohol abuse, divorce, family financial difficulties, and mental health issues are all examples of scissor cuts young people experience.

Adults need Anchors, too!

  • The HKS model uses the color Indigo to illustrate the need for each person to have their own web with friends, family and other anchors.

Community norms also impact each child's web of support.

  • We use the color Violet in the model to represent community norms. They are powerful and not easy to change.
  • But, the sustained pressure of critical mass of community members can have a significant impact on a community's norms.

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