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Intervention Summary

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Families and Schools Together (FAST)

Families and Schools Together (FAST) is a multifamily group intervention designed to build relationships between families, schools, and communities to increase well-being among elementary school children. The program's objectives are to enhance family functioning, prevent school failure, prevent substance misuse by the children and other family members, and reduce the stress that children and parents experience in daily situations. Participants in the multifamily group work together to enhance protective factors for children, including parent-child bonding, parent involvement in schools, parent networks, family communication, parental authority, and social capital, with the aim of reducing the children's anxiety and aggression and increasing their social skills and attention spans.

FAST includes three components: outreach to parents, eight weekly multifamily group sessions, and ongoing monthly group reunions for up to 24 months to support parents as the primary prevention agents for their children. Collaborative teams of parents/caregivers, professionals (e.g., substance abuse or mental health professionals), and school personnel facilitate the groups, which meet at the school at the end of the school day. With each cycle of FAST implementation, 30 to 50 students in one grade level and their families can participate.

Although versions of FAST have been developed for families with children of all ages (babies through teens), the research reviewed for this summary included only elementary school children.

Descriptive Information

Areas of Interest Mental health promotion
Substance abuse prevention
Outcomes Review Date: December 2008
1: Child problem behaviors
2: Child social skills and academic competencies
Outcome Categories Education
Family/relationships
Mental health
Social functioning
Violence
Ages 0-5 (Early childhood)
6-12 (Childhood)
Genders Male
Female
Races/Ethnicities American Indian or Alaska Native
Asian
Black or African American
Hispanic or Latino
White
Settings School
Other community settings
Geographic Locations Urban
Suburban
Rural and/or frontier
Tribal
Implementation History FAST was developed in Madison, Wisconsin, at a community, nonprofit family service agency in 1988. Since then, trained FAST teams have implemented groups in about 2,000 schools in 48 States and internationally, reaching more than 450,000 individuals. The first multifamily group was evaluated using standardized instruments, and each new site has been systematically trained and evaluated to monitor the program's impact on child well-being. The first small randomized controlled trial (RCT) was conducted in 1991; since 2001, four large RCTs have been completed. Several State, county, and city governments have used their funds to support FAST programs in their areas (e.g., California invested $10 million in a State initiative to prevent violence using FAST). The program has been adapted, implemented, and in some cases evaluated in Australia, Austria, Canada, England, Germany, the Netherlands, and Russia.
NIH Funding/CER Studies Partially/fully funded by National Institutes of Health: Yes
Evaluated in comparative effectiveness research studies: Yes
Adaptations FAST group processes have been adapted for use with various cultural groups, including Latino immigrants, Southeast Asian refugees, African Americans living in inner cities, and American Indian youth in rural reservation schools.
Adverse Effects No adverse effects, concerns, or unintended consequences were identified by the developer.
IOM Prevention Categories Universal
Selective
Indicated

Quality of Research
Review Date: December 2008

Documents Reviewed

The documents below were reviewed for Quality of Research. The research point of contact can provide information regarding the studies reviewed and the availability of additional materials, including those from more recent studies that may have been conducted.

Study 1

Kratochwill, T. R., McDonald, L., Levin, J. R., Bear-Tibbetts, H. Y., & Demaray, M. K. (2004). Families and Schools Together: An experimental analysis of a parent-mediated multi-family group program for American Indian children. Journal of School Psychology, 42, 359-383.

Study 2

McDonald, L., Moberg, D. P., Brown, R., Rodriguez-Espiricueta, I., Flores, N. I., Burke, M. P., et al. (2006). After-school multifamily groups: A randomized controlled trial involving low-income, urban, Latino children. Children and Schools, 28(1), 25-34.

Study 3

Kratochwill, T. R., McDonald, L., Levin, J. R., Scalia, P. A., & Coover, G. (2008). Families and Schools Together: An experimental study of multi-family support groups for children at risk. Manuscript in preparation.

Supplementary Materials

Layzer, J. I., Goodson, B., Creps, C., Werner, A., & Bernstein, L. (2001). National Evaluation of Family Support Programs. Final report. Volume B: Research studies. Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates. Retrieved from http://www.abtassoc.com/reports/NEFSP-VolB.pdf

McDonald, L., & Villadsen, A. (n.d.). Supplement #1. Overview of FAST evaluation studies.

McDonald, L., & Villadsen, A. (n.d.). Supplement #2. Reliability and validity of standardized instruments used across all three RCTs.

Supplement #3. (n.d.). Programme fidelity assessment strategies and tools.

Outcomes

Outcome 1: Child problem behaviors
Description of Measures Child problem behaviors were measured using the following instruments: 

  • Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). The externalizing subscale measures delinquent and aggressive behaviors, and the internalizing subscale measures withdrawal, somatic complaints, and anxiety/depression. Using a 3-point rating scale from 0 (not true) to 2 (very true or often true), parents and teachers indicate the extent to which each item describes a child's behavior at home and/or at school within the past 6 months.
  • Social Skills Rating System (SSRS), parent and teacher versions. The problem behavior subscale measures internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Parents and teachers rate how often a child exhibits certain behaviors using a 3-point rating scale from 0 (never) to 2 (often).
Key Findings One study compared students in FAST families with students in an assessment-only control group. At posttest, FAST students had significant improvements in teacher-reported externalizing behaviors, teacher-reported aggressive behaviors, and parent-reported withdrawal (all p values < .05) compared with control group students. The effect sizes were small (Cohen's d = 0.36 for externalizing behaviors) and large (Cohen's d = 1.20 for aggressive behaviors and Cohen's d = 0.87 for withdrawal). At 1-year follow-up, FAST participants sustained their improvement in withdrawal compared with control students (p < .05), a finding associated with a large effect size (Cohen's d = 1.92). FAST participants also showed significant improvement compared with control students in the following teacher-reported measures at 1-year follow-up: internalizing behaviors, anxious/depressed behaviors, attention problems, aggressive behaviors, and problem behaviors (all p values < .05). The effect sizes were medium (Cohen's d = 0.51 for internalizing behaviors, Cohen's d = 0.78 for anxious/depressed behaviors, Cohen's d = 0.70 for aggressive behaviors, and Cohen's d = 0.61 for problem behaviors) and large (Cohen's d = 0.92 for attention problems).

Another study compared students in FAST families with those in families receiving eight behavioral parenting pamphlets and family education. At 2-year follow-up, FAST students had significant improvement in teacher-reported externalizing behaviors compared with students in the control group (p < .001). No significant difference was found between groups on internalizing behaviors.

A third study compared students in FAST families with students receiving their school's usual services. At 1-year follow-up, FAST students had significant improvements in parent-reported externalizing behaviors and somatic complaints compared with control group students (all p values < .05). The effect sizes for these findings were small (Cohen's d = 0.42) and medium (Cohen's d = 0.53), respectively.
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1, Study 2, Study 3
Study Designs Experimental
Quality of Research Rating 3.7 (0.0-4.0 scale)
Outcome 2: Child social skills and academic competencies
Description of Measures Child social skills and academic competencies were assessed using the following instruments: 

  • CBCL. The academic performance scale, completed by the teacher, measures the child's specific academic skills, including reading, writing, and math, relative to the skills of other children at the same grade level.
  • SSRS, parent and teacher versions. The social skills subscale measures cooperation, assertion, and self-control. The academic competence subscale (in the teacher version only) measures overall academic performance, reading, mathematics, motivation, parental encouragement, intellectual functioning, and classroom behavior. Parents and teachers rate how often a child exhibits certain behaviors using a 3-point scale from 0 (never) to 2 (often).
Key Findings One study compared students in FAST families with students in an assessment-only control group. At 1-year follow-up, teachers assessed FAST students as having greater academic competence than control students (p < .05), a finding associated with a medium effect size (Cohen's d = 0.77). No significant difference was found between groups on social skills.

Another study compared students in FAST families with those in families receiving eight behavioral parenting pamphlets and family education. At 2-year follow-up, FAST students had significant improvements in social skills and academic performance compared with students in the control group (all p values < .05).

A third study compared students in FAST families with students receiving their school's usual services. No significant difference was found between groups on social skills or academic performance.
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1, Study 2, Study 3
Study Designs Experimental
Quality of Research Rating 3.7 (0.0-4.0 scale)

Study Populations

The following populations were identified in the studies reviewed for Quality of Research.

Study Age Gender Race/Ethnicity
Study 1 0-5 (Early childhood)
6-12 (Childhood)
Data not reported/available 100% American Indian or Alaska Native
Study 2 0-5 (Early childhood)
6-12 (Childhood)
59% Female
41% Male
100% Hispanic or Latino
Study 3 0-5 (Early childhood)
6-12 (Childhood)
57% Female
43% Male
40% White
35% Black or African American
13% Asian
12% Hispanic or Latino

Quality of Research Ratings by Criteria (0.0-4.0 scale)

External reviewers independently evaluate the Quality of Research for an intervention's reported results using six criteria:

  1. Reliability of measures
  2. Validity of measures
  3. Intervention fidelity
  4. Missing data and attrition
  5. Potential confounding variables
  6. Appropriateness of analysis

For more information about these criteria and the meaning of the ratings, see Quality of Research.

Outcome Reliability
of Measures
Validity
of Measures
Fidelity Missing
Data/Attrition
Confounding
Variables
Data
Analysis
Overall
Rating
1: Child problem behaviors 4.0 4.0 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.7
2: Child social skills and academic competencies 4.0 4.0 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.7

Study Strengths

All the studies used standardized data collection instruments with well-established psychometric properties. The authors addressed the majority of methodological concerns related to fidelity, attrition, missing data, confounding variables, and analysis.

Study Weaknesses

One study implemented an adaptation of the intervention, making it difficult to monitor intervention fidelity. While the ability to modify the intervention is viewed as an important benefit, adaptations are nevertheless problematic in evaluating overall effectiveness.

Readiness for Dissemination
Review Date: December 2008

Materials Reviewed

The materials below were reviewed for Readiness for Dissemination. The implementation point of contact can provide information regarding implementation of the intervention and the availability of additional, updated, or new materials.

Families and Schools Together, Inc. (2003). FASTWORKS manual. Madison, WI: Author.

Families and Schools Together, Inc. (2004). FAST PCS training manual. Madison, WI: Author.

Families and Schools Together, Inc. (2004). Middle school FAST: Trainer's resource kit. Madison, WI: Author.

Families and Schools Together, Inc. (2005). Baby FAST program guide. Madison, WI: Author.

Families and Schools Together, Inc. (2008). FAST program guide. Madison, WI: Author.

Families and Schools Together, Inc. (n.d.). FAST research background [DVD]. Madison, WI: Author.

Families and Schools Together, Inc. (n.d.). FAST training presentations [CD-ROM]. Madison, WI: Author.

FAST Web site, http://familiesandschools.org/

McDonald, L. (2004). Baby FAST program manual. Madison, WI: Families and Schools Together, Inc.

McDonald, L. (n.d.). High school FAST program manual. Madison, WI: Families and Schools Together, Inc.

McDonald, L., Morgan, A., Billingham, S., Kiser-Billingham, B., Coe-Braddish, D., Payton, E., et al. (2001). Middle school FAST program manual. Madison, WI: Families and Schools Together, Inc.

McDonald, L., & Scalia, P. (2002). Families & Schools Together (FAST): Interactive CD-ROM. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Board of Regents.

McDonald, L., & Scalia, P. (n.d.). FAST babies: Trainer resource kit. Madison, WI: Families and Schools Together, Inc.

Scott, D., McDonald, L., Roessler, J., & Scalia, P. (2007). Multi-site replication manual: Taking FAST to scale. Madison, WI: Families and Schools Together, Inc.

Readiness for Dissemination Ratings by Criteria (0.0-4.0 scale)

External reviewers independently evaluate the intervention's Readiness for Dissemination using three criteria:

  1. Availability of implementation materials
  2. Availability of training and support resources
  3. Availability of quality assurance procedures

For more information about these criteria and the meaning of the ratings, see Readiness for Dissemination.

Implementation
Materials
Training and Support
Resources
Quality Assurance
Procedures
Overall
Rating
4.0 4.0 4.0 4.0

Dissemination Strengths

Excellent materials and a strong implementation model support the implementation of this program. Detailed information on funding and sustaining the program is available to administrators. Robust training, consultation, and trainer certification are provided by developers. Training includes comprehensive information for both planning and implementation. Evaluation is seen as an integral part of program implementation and is addressed during training. Numerous evaluation tools and clear instructions for their use support a comprehensive quality assurance package.

Dissemination Weaknesses

No weaknesses were identified by reviewers.

Costs

The cost information below was provided by the developer. Although this cost information may have been updated by the developer since the time of review, it may not reflect the current costs or availability of items (including newly developed or discontinued items). The implementation point of contact can provide current information and discuss implementation requirements.

Item Description Cost Required by Developer
Training package $6,045 plus travel expenses Yes

Additional Information

The training package includes all required implementation materials, training, the licensing fee, ongoing technical assistance, and an evaluation package.

Replications

Selected citations are presented below. An asterisk indicates that the document was reviewed for Quality of Research.

Alliance for Children and Families. FAST, Families and Schools Together. Evaluation report 1996-2002. Retrieved from http://parent.sdsu.edu/pns/96-02fast.htm

Fischer, R. L. (2003). School-based family support: Evidence from an exploratory field study. Families in Society, 84(3), 339-347.

Friese, B., & Davenport, P. (2005). One size does not fit all: How a model program can be adapted to work for different populations. Persistently Safe Schools 2005: The National Conference of the Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community Violence. Retrieved from http://gwired.gwu.edu/hamfish/merlin-cgi/p/downloadFile/d/16893/n/off/other/1/name/FrieseandDavenport9507Paperpdf/

Guerra, N., & Knox, L. (2008). How culture impacts the dissemination and implementation of innovation: A case study of the Families and Schools Together program (FAST) for preventing violence with immigrant Latino youth. American Journal of Community Psychology, 41(3-4), 304-313.  Pub Med icon

McDonald, L., Billingham, S., Conrad, P., Morgan, A., Nina, O., & Payton, E. (1997). Families and Schools Together (FAST): Integrating community development with clinical strategy. Families in Society, 78(2), 140-155.

McDonald, L., Conrad, T., Fairtlough, A., Fletcher, J., Green, L., Moore, L., & Lepps, B. (2009). An evaluation of a groupwork intervention for teenage mothers and their families. Child and Family Social Work, 14, 45-57.

McDonald, L., & Sayger, T. (1998). Impact of a family and school based prevention program on protective factors for high-risk youth. Drugs and Society, 12(1-2), 61-85.

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (November 1999). Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Families and Schools Together: Building relationships. Evaluation results. Retrieved from http://www.ncjrs.gov/html/ojjdp/9911_2/contents.html

Sandler, J. (2007). Community-based practices: Integrating dissemination theory with critical theories of power and justice. American Journal of Community Psychology, 40(3-4), 272-289.  Pub Med icon

Contact Information

To learn more about implementation, contact:
Patricia Davenport
(888) 629-2481
pdavenport@familiesandschools.org

To learn more about research, contact:
Lynn McDonald, M.S.W., Ph.D.
+ 44 20 8411 5634
l.mcdonald@mdx.ac.uk; lynn.mcdonald@gmail.com

Consider these Questions to Ask (PDF, 54KB) as you explore the possible use of this intervention.

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