This evidence based programme was first presented here in Ireland at Trinity College Ireland Addiction Research Centres annual conference in September 2005 by Dr. Karol Kumpfer (University of Utah)...
Following this, Drug and Alcohol Services H.S.E. south and Cork Local Drugs Task Force and Southern Regional Drugs Task Force arranged training for nearly 50 professionals in March 2006 which was received with great enthusiasm.
Arbour House Youth Drug and Alcohol Services then took the initiative and in conjunction with Community based Drug Projects, Probation Services, Liberty Street Homeless Services and Your Equal piloted and implemented the “Strengthening Families Programme”.
The Strengthening Families Programme is a 14 session family skills training programme designed to increase resilience and reduce the risk factors for substance misuse, depression, violence and aggression, involvement in crime, and school failure in high risk, 13-17 year old children and their parents.
Positive results from over 15 independent research replications demonstrate that the programme is robust and effective in increasing assets and protective factors by improving family relationships, parenting skills, and improving youths social and life skills
The SFP curriculum includes three courses (Parent skills training, Teen skills training and Family life skills training) taught in 14 two-hour periods. In the first hour, parents and children participate in separate classes; each class is led by 2 co-facilitators. Parents learn to increase desired behaviours in children by using attention and rewards, clear communication, effective discipline, substance use education, problem solving, and limit setting.
Children learn effective communication, understanding feelings, coping with criticism, stress management, social skills, problem solving, resisting peer pressure, consequences of substance use and compliance with parental rules. During the second hour families practice structuring family activities, family meetings, communication skills, effective discipline, reinforcing positive behaviours in each other, and jointly planning family activities.
Incentives for attendance, positive participation, home practice completion, and graduation are recommended. Family meals before each session, transportation, and child care all reduce barriers to participation. Booster sessions and parent run family support groups for Strengthening Families Programme graduates are encouraged.
The first families to graduate the programme did so on April 18th 2007. Out of 10 initial families that started the programme 9 graduated, this shows the programmes ability to retain clients.
With follow up sessions at 3 month intervals it gives the facilitators an opportunity to track the progress of the families in their implementation of their new skills and also to reinforce the learning on the original programme.
A number of trainings for facilitators has taken,with over 100 people now trained to facilitate.
The programme has been deliverd in a number of locations, from Cork City, to Tralee, Fermoy and Mallow, with SRDTF committed to delivering at least 2 programmes per year.
Besides the benefit to the Families taking part, a major spin off has been to the agencies taking part. Workers from Task Force, HSE, Probation Service, Social Services and community organisations have developed ne and strong working relationships.
This Programme can be replicated in all areas of the HSE within a budget of approximately 10,000 euros.