FAST in Diverse Settings
FAST children and their families come from many ethnic, cultural, racial, and social class backgrounds, depending on the geographic setting and who the school decides to invite to FAST. Nationally, 51 percent of FAST participants have been Caucasian, 25 percent Latino, 23 percent African American, and 2 percent Asian and American Indian; 70 percent of the children have been low income and eligible for free or reduced-price lunches at school. FAST has had similar levels of impact across diverse groups of families; the program materials have been translated into French, German, Japanese, Spanish, and Vietnamese, and they have been used with multilingual, English as a Second Language (ESL) family groups. FAST has been found effective in rural, suburban, and inner-city schools in Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, and 34 States and 3 Indian nations in the United States.
FAST mandates cultural comparability in both the program content and the rules of implementation; for example, teams have to "look" like the families they serve. FAST program certification requires that the team that facilitates the program and the families being served be similar in their ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
In addition, one-half of the activity-based program takes place at a family table, which means the parents "deliver services" to their own children. Thus, there is perfect cultural and language competency at each family table. FAST has no written or spoken curriculum, so literacy is not a requirement and language barriers do not restrict access to the program. Because learning about relationships and parenting occurs through a set of interactions, no translator is needed. FAST has been particularly successful at involving hard-to-reach, low-income families from diverse ethnic groups. Eighty percent of inner-city parents and American Indian parents on reservations who were willing to attend one FAST session have gone on to complete the program.
Since the FAST program began, teams have taken responsibility for carrying out and refining the recruitment and retention strategies for "hard to reach" parents. For example, a FAST team member (preferably the FAST parent graduate on the team) repeatedly visits or meets with the parent being recruited at nontraditional hoursnot 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but in the evenings or on weekendson his or her terms. The team member explains FAST and invites the parent to attend just one session. The program also actively recruits participants by providing transportation, infant care, meals, and respect. Team members are trained to listen as parents discuss their children, to reflect their concerns using their own words, and to help parents understand that what their child is doing at home is similar to what the teacher says he or she is doing at school. Then the team members explain that FAST helps build the relationships from which children will benefit. They tell each parent that one time during the FAST program his or her family will win a large lottery and that the "winning" family in each session receives money to shop and cook for all of the participants the following week. The conversation with a team member teaches each parent that, by participating in the FAST program, he or she can both give and receive support in raising children.