Program Implementation


Group leaders. Three group leaders are needed—one for the parent session and two for the youth session. The roles of the group leaders change from teacher to facilitator during the family sessions. Each group leader is responsible for three or four families and works with the same group of families for the duration of the program. The group leader spends time with each family during the session and offers help when needed.

Group leaders must have strong presentation and facilitation skills, experience working with parents and/or youth, enthusiasm for family skill-building programs, and the ability to be flexible with individuals and activities within the confines of the standardized program. They must have good organizational skills and a strong sense of responsibility for carrying out the program as designed. Their responsibilities include attending at least 2 days of training in which they learn about the program and gain practical experience with the teaching activities, preparing for each session by reviewing the activities and assembling needed materials, teaching youth or parent sessions for 7 weeks (plus four booster sessions), and helping to facilitate the family session. Effective group leaders can be drawn from the following: family and youth service workers, mental health staff, teachers, school counselors, ministers, church youth staff, skilled parents who have previously attended the program, and staff from the Cooperative Extension Service. Affiliated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Cooperative Extension Service is administered through each State's land-grant university. As it relates to youth and families, the mission of the Cooperative Extension Service is to provide preventive education through county-based services throughout the United States.

Competency TrainingAdditional staff. In addition to the three group leaders, local coordinators can help recruit families; arrange for, locate, and oversee childcare workers and transportation; and make arrangements for building access and equipment. These local coordinators can be recruited by the sponsoring agencies, which may include the local Cooperative Extension Service, churches, schools, the YMCA and YWCA, and other youth- and family-serving agencies and groups. Coordinators can be either community volunteers or paid from small local or State grants.

Training. Facilitators receive at least 2 days of training to learn about the background, evaluation, goals, and content of the program and to take part in session activities. Training also includes information on practical considerations for implementing the SFP 10-14, such as recruiting families and handling challenging parents and youth during program sessions. Onsite trainings by a team of experienced trainers can be scheduled. Consultation and technical assistance for facilitators are available after the training at no cost.


Recruitment is carried out by a local family-serving agency such as a substance abuse prevention agency, the Cooperative Extension Service, a church, a school, the YMCA or YWCA, or another community group. An active coalition of such groups has been shown to provide the most effective recruitment. The suggested procedure for recruiting begins by identifying a core group of parents in the targeted group, meeting together to motivate them to recruit other families, and then asking them to invite other families to the program. Recruitment materials include program brochures and a short motivational videotape with footage from an actual program that illustrates program features and includes positive comments from parents who have participated.

When grant money from State and local funds is available, families are given incentives such as $5 grocery certificates for parents and $2 or $3 fast-food coupons for youth. In addition, a weekly drawing may be held for a gift that includes snacks and a family game to encourage families to spend time together at home. Grant money can also be used for family meals during program sessions and for childcare. The program has also been carried out successfully without incentives. If grant funds are not available, families can take turns bringing snacks for program sessions.

Location and Equipment

Competency TrainingA school, church, or community center with at least two separate rooms is appropriate. Parents and youth meet in separate rooms during the first hour. The family session that follows requires a room large enough to hold both groups, preferably one with tables for family activities. One TV and one VCR are needed for parent sessions 1-6. The same units can be used for family sessions 3 and 6. An additional TV and VCR are needed for youth sessions 5 and 6. Flipcharts or an erasable board are needed for all sessions. A slide projector is needed for session 7. Program materials, including flipcharts, markers, and other supplies, cost about $15 per family.


Many group leaders who have taught the program have found that it is best to schedule the sessions in October and November or from January to March. This timing avoids competition with either spring and summer activities or busy holiday schedules. Others have adapted the lessons to a 13-week format suitable for a Sunday morning education hour. In this format, the 1-hour parent and youth sessions are followed by the family session a week later. Booster sessions may be held 3 to 12 months after session 7.

Meals or Snacks

A meal or snack before or during the program session can be a powerful incentive for attendance if grant money is available or if the food can be donated and prepared by volunteers. Meals should begin at about 6 p.m., and the program sessions should begin at about 6:30 p.m. Group leaders for groups that do not have funds for meals or volunteers to prepare them should arrange for snacks to be served during the last 20 minutes of the family session or between the youth and parent sessions and the family session. Group leaders can bring snacks for the first and last sessions and can ask participating families to bring and serve snacks for the other sessions. In some cases, local restaurants have provided food for one or more sessions.

Childcare and Transportation

The availability of childcare for younger children will allow some families to participate in the program and attend regularly. If funds are not available for childcare workers, the support of a church, 4-H Club, or other group can be enlisted. Childcare providers should be encouraged to bring games, books, and craft materials.

Transportation can also be an important factor for some families. Depending on local program resources, one of the following options may be chosen. If several families need transportation, it may be possible to borrow or rent a van from a local family-serving agency. If grant funds allow, families can be given money for a bus or taxi. As an alternative, group leaders can ask about transportation needs at the first session, and some families may be able to offer rides to other families.

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Competency Training
The Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14
Juvenile Justice Bulletin August 2000