The FAST Curriculum

Following an elementary school or middle school teacher's recommendation, the family of an at-risk child is invited to participate in the program by a FAST parent graduate who conducts home outreach visits. Some schools offer FAST to all children who are enrolled. These schools encourage families to attend a cluster meeting with other families from that school. "Family" is redefined to include all variations of adults raising children. Ten to fifteen families meet for 8 to 10 weekly sessions that include a family meal, singing, and other highly interactive family activities that are enjoyable for both children and parents.

Each weekly FAST session follows a standard 2½-hour agenda:

  • Opening tradition (15 minutes). Session begins with FAST hello and FAST song.

  • Family tables (45 minutes). Teams support parental authority by putting parents in charge of activities at their family tables.

    • Families eat meals at their family tables.

    • Structured family table communication activities (e.g., for elementary school, "draw and talk about it" game and "act out a feeling and guess it" game; for middle school, a family communication board game).

  • Mutual peer support time (1 hour). Parents gather for discussion, and children gather for age-appropriate activities to build connections to each other.

  • One-to-one FAST parent-child communication time (15 minutes). The FAST team coaches parents to provide play therapy for elementary school children. In the middle school curriculum, the FAST team coaches parents to discuss topics with their youth, selected by the youth group.

  • Closing tradition (15 minutes). Activities (e.g., celebrating winners, thanking hosts, announcing and sharing, and a silent circle) build multifamily community and FAST team cohesion.

After graduating from FAST, each group of families joins an ongoing school-based collective of interdependent FAST families that meets monthly for 2 years in meetings called FASTWORKS. FASTWORKS sessions are more flexible than FAST sessions, enabling families in each community to tailor agendas to their own needs. Each monthly meeting includes the FAST opening and closing traditions and 15 minutes of one-on-one special play or discussion between one family member and one child. The rest of each meeting is planned by the families with support from a collaborative team that includes parents who have graduated from the FAST program. Instead of rewarding each family for attendance, FASTWORKS rewards small groups of families by allowing them to plan how the budget ($100) for the next month's meeting will be used. By emphasizing connections between entire families, FASTWORKS meetings sustain the relationships that developed during the 8- to 10-week FAST sessions. These relationships act as protective factors for at-risk youth and their families against the stresses of daily living.

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Families and Schools Together: Building Relationships Juvenile Justice Bulletin   ·  November 1999