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Families & Schools Together, Inc.

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth, Children & Youth Services

Mission: Families & Schools Together, Inc. is a non-profit organization whose mission is the development and worldwide dissemination of FAST®, the internationally acclaimed parent engagement program. Founded in 1988 by scientific researcher and Professor of Social Work Dr. Lynn McDonald, FAST helps children thrive by building stronger, more supportive relationships at home. Built on evidence-based practices and rigorously tested, FAST consistently produces statistically significant improvements in children’s behavior, emotional well-being and academic performance while building social capital among families, schools and communities.

Results: Founded in 1988 by scientific researcher and Professor of Social Work, Dr. Lynn McDonald, FAST® is a prevention and early intervention program that applies published research to strengthen families and improve child well-being. In hundreds of sites around the world as well as through several large randomized controlled trials (RCTs), FAST has been shown to: Improve children’s behavior, emotional well-being and academic performance. Strengthen families and increase parent empowerment. Improve education and help schools succeed. Build social capital. FAST consistently achieves these positive outcomes because the program utilizes evidence-based practices derived from social, behavioral and physiological science. Each process and activity is designed to respect FAST participants while adhering to the core research-based structure. Theoretical Foundations Over 25 years ago, FAST was one of the first prevention and early intervention programs to develop practical applications for adult and children’s mental health research findings. Today, FAST continues to evolve and improve by integrating new scientific findings into the program structure. The program’s theoretical foundations include: -Social ecology of child development -Family stress theory -Family systems theory -Parent empowerment -Community development -Neuroscience and brain development -Social capital -Risk and resiliency -Learn more about the theoretical foundations of FAST here. Randomized Control Trials and Evaluations Numerous studies, including several large randomized control trials (RCT’s) have verified that FAST produces positive outcomes for the students and families who experience the program. In addition, extensive pre- and post-survey evaluation occurs with every 8-week FAST Cycle to assess the program’s impact and continually improve its effectiveness.

Target demographics: Children succeed by empowering parents, connecting families, improving the school climate and strengthening community engagement.

Geographic areas served: Communities all across the world

Programs: Program Structure FAST® is a prevention and early intervention program that helps children succeed by empowering parents, connecting families, improving the school climate and strengthening community engagement. FAST® Program Fidelity: The Foundation of FAST Success For more than 25 years, FAST has achieved consistent positive outcomes in thousands of settings around the world – across ethnicities, cultures, languages and socioeconomic class. This consistency is the result of running each FAST Program as it was designed, according to evidence-based practices proven to change children’s lives. To assure success, the FAST Program requires thorough training, evaluation and certification of the people who run FAST at the local level (FAST Teams). Led by a Certified FAST Trainer and supported by detailed documentation, each FAST Team learns about the research behind FAST, as well as the mechanics of running the program to assure the greatest benefit to participating families, schools and the community. Who Runs FAST® It takes a village to raise a child, so an important building block of FAST is including a diverse group of Team Members. At the local level, FAST is run by trained 4- to 8-person FAST Teams comprised of parents, teachers, other school representatives, and community-based professionals at the Middle School and High School levels, youth are also provided with leadership opportunities within the team. Each FAST Team is representative of the population served, that is, consistent with the gender, ethnicity and culture of the participating families. Each FAST Team includes: -For the first FAST Cycle, one parent partner whose child is currently in the school grade participating in FAST. For FAST Programs that have completed one or more FAST Cycles, two to three FAST Graduate Parents; -One school partner, ideally a school teacher for the targeted student population; -Two community partners who are knowledgeable about local community resources, often with expertise in substance abuse prevention or mental health and emotional well-being; -One recreation coordinator who organizes child or youth activities and exercises -At the Middle School level, one youth advocate (a school employee), and one graduate youth partner (a high school aged youth) are part of the team. -At the High School level, three youth partners are included. Each FAST Team forms a “hub” serving eight to 10 participating FAST Families. Several FAST Teams can collaborate to run multiple hubs simultaneously to serve larger populations, such as an entire grade level of children and their families. FAST® Levels From birth to adulthood, FAST recognizes that children have different needs at every stage of their lives. To provide parents with the tools they need to help children meet the challenges of each transition and developmental milestone, FAST is available at the Elementary School, Middle School, and High School level. While the core values of FAST remain the same at all levels, the activities have been adjusted to meet the needs of the target child’s age. Each level helps families develop and strengthen specific protective factors so children of all ages can reach their full potential.

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