Program Goals/Target Population
Families And Schools Together (FAST) is a multifamily group intervention program designed to build protective factors for children, to empower parents to be the primary prevention agents for their own children, and to build supportive parent-to-parent groups. The overall goal of the FAST program is to intervene early to help at-risk youth succeed in the community, at home, and in school and thus avoid problems such as adolescent delinquency, violence, addiction, and dropping out of school. The FAST program achieves its goals by respecting and supporting parents and by using the existing strengths of families, schools, and communities in creative partnerships. The program is geared to at-risk children ages 4 to 12 and their families.
Developed in 1988, FAST has been implemented in more than 800 schools in 45 States and five countries as of 2009. It is based on several disciplines, including social ecology of child development, child psychiatry, family stress, family systems, social support, family therapy, parent-led play therapy, group work, adult education, and community development. FAST offers youth structured opportunities for involvement in repeated relationship-building interactions with the primary caretaking parent, other family members, other families, peers, school representatives, and community representatives.
The program begins when a teacher or other school professional identifies a child with problem behaviors who is at risk for serious future academic and social problems. The professional refers the family for participation in the program, and trained recruiters—often FAST graduates—visit the parents at home to discuss the school’s concerns and invite them to participate in the program. The family then gathers with 8 to 12 other families for 8 weekly meetings, usually held in the school. The meetings, which typically last 2½ hours, include planned opening and closing routines, a family meal, structured family activities and communications, parent mutual-support time, and parent–child play therapy. These group activities support parents to help teach their child to connect to the cultures of work and school. A trained team consisting of a parent, a school professional, a clinical social worker, and a substance abuse counselor facilitates the meetings. Team members represent the ethnic or cultural background of the families participating in the program. Families participate in a graduation ceremony at the end of 8 weeks and then continue to participate in monthly follow-up meetings, run by the families, for 2 years.
4 to 9
Kratchowill and colleagues (2004) found that, compared to control students, the Families And Schools Together (FAST) students had lower scores on the teacher aggressive behavior scale and lower scores on the withdrawn scale of the parent measure. The teacher scale difference was found at the immediate posttest but not at the 9- to 12-month test, while the difference in scores on the parent measure was found at both the immediate and the 9- to 12-month tests. On the social skills measures, no significant differences were found between the groups at immediate posttest, but at the 9- to 12-month follow-up, FAST students were rated to have fewer problem behaviors than controls.
On the teacher rating of academic competence, FAST students were rated higher (d=.77) than control students.
At the 2-year posttest, McDonald and colleagues (2006) found that FAST participants had significantly lower teacher-reported externalizing behavior scores than comparison participants, but the groups did not differ on their internalizing scores.
Child Social Skills
Child social skills 2 years after intervention were rated significantly higher for FAST students than for the students in the comparison group.
There were no significant differences at 2 years between the groups on academic competence scores of the teacher-completed Social Skills Rating System (SSRS).
Two years after intervention, teachers rated FAST students significantly higher than comparison students on the academic scale of the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL).
Kratchowill and colleagues (2009) found no differences between the groups for either internalizing or externalizing behaviors as measured by the CBCL, and only one subgroup difference in favor of the FAST group and one subgroup in favor of the control group.
Child Social Skills
There were no differences between the groups for any areas of social skills ratings.
Of the family variables, participants in the FAST group, compared to the control group, had significantly improved family adaptability at both posttests (d=1.35), but there was no difference between the groups on family cohesion or support.
Special Education Placements
There was a difference between the groups in the number of special education placements (one FAST student and four control students), which favored the FAST group. Only descriptive statistics were provided for this outcome, due to the small number of students who received placements.
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