Strengthening America's Families:
Exemplary Parenting and Family Strategies
For Delinquency Prevention



According to OJJDP Administrator Shay Bilchik: "Working to strengthen families is a linchpin in OJJDP's overall delinquency prevention strategy" (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1995). Although many effective programs have been developed, few of the researchers and practitioners who developed them have had the time to disseminate the results effectively. The compilation and dissemination of these program results is paramount in combating delinquency. In order to address this dilemma, the University of Utah in cooperation with OJJDP developed a unique strategy to identify family-based model programs and then effectively disseminate them nationwide.

This section of the monograph summarizes the results of this OJJDP-funded technology transfer program that focuses on strengthening families for the prevention of delinquency.


Through a 1987 cooperative agreement with OJJDP, Dr. Kumpfer and her associates at the University of Utah conducted a national search for effective family strengthening programs. During that search, 25 programs were selected from more than 500 that had been nominated. An OJJDP publication was developed to highlight these 25 programs (Kumpfer, 1993). The project culminated in a national conference held in Salt Lake City, UT, in December 1991. Through an additional cooperative agreement with OJJDP, awarded in 1995, Drs. Kumpfer and Alvarado and her associates continued work begun in 1987 to disseminate information on model family approaches.


In 1995, the University of Utah began implementation of a four-phase technology transfer process:

Phase 1: National search, literature review and dissemination through the Web.

This effort included a national search for programs focusing on children (at all ages) and families with a range of problems. Nomination forms were sent to representatives of four government agencies in every state and they were asked to nominate programs in their state which were family focused and had a proven record of effectiveness. The representatives were asked to nominate programs that had evaluation results associated with them that demonstrated effectiveness. The individual programs were then contacted and additional information was requested including published articles and information on program evaluation results. In addition, a review of the scientific literature was conducted to identify programs which may not have surfaced through the state nomination process. Programs identified in the 1983 Family Strengthening Project were also contacted and asked to update their file and provide any recent available information on the program. A panel of national family research experts was convened to review the program information.

After the programs were scored on the strength of the theoretical foundation, content, dissemination capability, quality of the research design, outcome results, and number of replications, the top programs in each category were selected from the more than 126 nominated programs. Programs were rated "exemplary" if they had been tested using an experimental design with control groups and had positive findings; "model" if the program had been researched using an experimental or quasi-experimental design with a comparison group and had positive findings; and "promising" if a non-experimental design with positive findings was utilized and there was supporting qualitative data.

This search identified 11 exemplary family programs, 14 model programs, and 9 promising programs for a total of 34 top programs. It is important to note that once additional research is conducted on many of the programs, particularly the promising approaches, they may be eligible to move to another category. Hence, the program developer should be contacted to obtain the most recent research findings particularly if an agency is considering implementing a program in their community. A list of the programs by category follows:

Exemplary Programs
Functional Family Therapy
Helping the Noncompliant Child
Iowa Strengthening Families Program for families with Pre-& Early Teens
Multisystemic Therapy Program
Parents and Children Training Series: The Incredible Years
Prenatal & Early Childhood Nurse Home Visitation
Preparing for the Drug Free Years
Raising a Thinking Child: I Can Problem Solve Program for Families
Strengthening Families Program
Structural Family Therapy
Treatment Foster Care

Model Programs
CEDEN Health and Fair Start Program
CICC's Effective Black Parenting Program
Families and Schools Together (FAST)
Focus on Families
Healthy Families Indiana
Home-Based Behavioral Systems
Nurturing Parenting Program
Parents Anonymous
Parent Project
Parenting Adolescents Wisely
Strengthening Hawaii Families

Promising Programs
Bethesda Day Treatment Center
Birth To Three
Families in Focus
Family Support Program
First Steps
Health Start
Home Base Program
Project SEEK
Strengthening Multi-Ethnic Families and Communities

In order to provide another means of dissemination, one-page descriptions of each program were also created for the project Web site: http://www.strengtheningfamilies. [See Model Family Programs For Delinquency Prevention 1997 and Program List 1999] Contact information is provided by the program developer.

Phase 2: Two national conferences.

In order to further the dissemination and training goals, two national conferences were convened. Strengthening America's Families conferences were held in Snowbird, UT, in October 1996 and in Washington, D.C., in March 1997. More than 600 people attended the two conferences, which provided training workshops, roundtable discussions and resource fairs for the 34 programs found useful for reducing risks for delinquency in many different ethnic and cultural groups.

Phase 3: Regional training of trainers.

Ten 2- to 3-day workshops were conducted for the eight most popular parenting and family programs. The programs selected were identified by national conference attendees as the prevention programs they wished to be trained in and to implement locally. The workshops were free or at an extremely low cost. Stipends were offered for training workshops for an additional 11 programs.

Phase 4: Technical assistance and publications.

During phase 4, currently in progress, technical assistance is being offered to agencies implementing the programs for which regional training was held and for which stipends were offered. Process and outcome evaluations also are being conducted for a limited number of agencies, which receive mini-grants to promote high-quality program implementation. In addition, OJJDP has begun a Bulletin series to periodically publish history, program content, format, and results of these outstanding family programs.


Strengthening America's Families Programs are listed according to an additional classification in Table 2 of this section. The programs are matrixed by age and level of prevention programming: universal (general population), selective (high-risk population), and indicated (in-crisis population) prevention (Gordon, 1987; Mrazek and Haggerty, 1994). This classification is utilized for ease in identifying and selecting programs to meet specific needs. For example, an agency may want to locate a program that serves an extremely high population of mothers of newborn infants. They can use the matrix to narrow down the programs they may want to explore further for possible implementation in their community. Additional information on this classification system is provided.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) (1994) introduced this new classification to prevention interventions in 1994 based on a risk-benefit point of view that incorporates the risk to an individual of getting a disease which must be weighed against the cost, risk, and discomfort of the preventive intervention (Gordon, 1987). Gordon's (1987) system consists of three categories universal, selective, and indicated prevention measurement and intervention. These classifications have been used to group OJJDP's Strengthening America's Families Programs.


Universal interventions for families are applied to the general population of families and youth (Aktan, Kumpfer, Turner, 1996). Examples would be school-based programs, media campaigns, and community interventions to prevent substance abuse and juvenile delinquency. Programs include Preparing for the Drug-free Years (Hawkins & Catalano, 1992), Families and Schools Together (FAST) (McDonald, 1996), and the Iowa Strengthening Families Programs (Molgaard & Kumpfer, 1994).


Selective interventions are targeted to high-risk individuals or families as members of at-risk subgroups. The family as a unit tends not to be targeted because of specific individual needs assessments or diagnoses (Aktan, Kumpfer, Turner, 1996). Family interventions at this level are generally longer in length, more intrusive by involving parent and youth in ways to target behavioral changes (Aktan, Kumpfer, Turner, 1996). Behavioral changes attempt to reduce epidemiologically or empirically established risk factors such as 1) demographic risk factors, 2) psychosocial environmental risk factors, and 3) biological genetic risk (Kumpfer et. al., in press). Examples of selective family prevention interventions are the Strengthening Families Program (Kumpfer, DeMarsh, & Child, 1989) for substance abusing families and other culturally-modified version for high-risk African-American families (Aktan, 1995; Aktan, Kumpfer & Turner, 1996), Spanish-speaking families and Asian/Pacific Islander families (for overview of all versions see Kumpfer, Molgaard, & Spoth, 1996).


Indicated prevention programs are designed to address the multiple risk factors in individual families (Aktan, Kumpfer & Turner, 1996). These identified or diagnosed problems could include school failure, delinquency, non-compliance or drug use in the child or indicators of parenting dysfunction such as child physical or sexual abuse, severe neglect, or other parental pathology (Aktan, Kumpfer & Turner, 1996). Indicated prevention programs are even more intrusive, longer and can involve in-home therapeutic or family support sessions as are done in family preservation programs and some family services or family case management programs (Aktan, Kumpfer & Turner, 1996). Often involve individual rather than group sessions with a highly trained therapist. Examples of these programs include Prenatal and Infancy Nurse Home Visitation Program (Olds & Petit, 1996) and Functional Family Therapy Program (Alexander & Parsons, 1982). Additionally, many prevention programs are categorized as both prevention and treatment (Aktan, Kumpfer & Turner, 1996). For example, the family therapy programs are considered therapeutic for conduct disorders in the child or severely dysfunctional parenting (Aktan, Kumpfer & Turner, 1996). However, they are still categorized as indicated prevention programs if the child is not currently a substance abuser, because they are effective in preventing the developmental progression from conduct disorders to drug abuse (Aktan, Kumpfer & Turner, 1996). The Multisystemic Family Therapy program is an example of this type of classification, both prevention and treatment (Henggeler & Borduin, 1990; Henggeler, Melton, and Smith, 1992).

Strengthening America's Families Program Matrix
(General Population)
(High Risk Population)
(In-Crisis Population)
HIPPY (Model)
New York, NY

MELD (Model)
Minneapolis, MN

First Step (Promising)
Cannon, City, CO

Birth to Three (Promising)
Eugene, OR
Health Start (Promising)
St. Paul, Minnesota

I Can Problem Solve (Exemplary)
Philadelphia, PA

Healthy Families Indiana (Model)
Indianapolis, IN
Prenatal and Early Childhood Nurse Home Visitation Program (Exemplary)
Denver, CO

CEDEN Healthy and Fair Start (Model)
Austin, TX
Preparing for the Drug Free Years (Exemplary)
Seattle, WA
Strengthening Families Program (Exemplary)
Salt Lake City, UT

Video-Based Parenting (Exemplary)
Seattle, WA

Strengthening Hawaii Families (Model)
Honolulu, HI
Helping the Non-Compliant Child (Exemplary)
Seattle, WA

Focus on Families (Model)
Seattle, WA
Iowa Strengthening Families Program (Exemplary)
Ames, IA
Families and Schools Together (Model)
Madison, WI

Families in Focus (Promising)
Salt Lake City, UT

Family Support Program (Promising)
Rocky Mountain, VA
Multi-Systemic (Exemplary)
Charleston, S.C./Columbia, MO

Functional Family Therapy(Exemplary)
Salt Lake City, UT

Home Based FFT (Model)
Athens, OH
Structural Family Therapy (Exemplary)
Miami, FL

Treatment Foster Care (Exemplary)
Eugene, OR
Parents Anonymous (Model)
Compton, CA

Parent Project (Model)
Round Lake, IL
Nurturing Parenting Program (Model)
Arden, NC

Strengthening Multi-Ethnic Families and Communities (Promising)
Los Angeles, CA

Effective Black Parenting (Model)
Studio City, CA
Project Seek (Promising)
Lansing, MI

Homebuilders (Model)
Federal Way, WA

Parenting Adolescents Wisely (Model)
Athens, OH

Bethesda Day Treatment (Promising)
Milton, PA

Coordinated Children Services (Promising)
Huntington, NY


Follows are one-page descriptions [from the 1997 Program Matrix] for each of the 11 exemplary programs, written by the University of Utah staff in collaboration with the program developer. Generally the description provides information on goals of the program, target population it serves, program structure/content and evaluation. Contact information for the program developer or contact is provided. If the program has a web-site, that information is also available. For information on all 34 programs, you may go to the project Web site: http://www.strengtheningfamilies [See Program Matrix 1997 and Program Matrix 1999] or contact the University of Utah, Family Strengthening Project at 801-581-7718 for a booklet.

Functional Family Therapy
Helping the Noncompliant Child
The Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14
Multisystemic Therapy Program
The Incredible Years: Parents, Teachers, And Children Training Series
The Prenatal and Early Childhood Nurse Home Visitation Program
Preparing for the Drug Free Years
Raising a Thinking Child: I Can Problem Solve (ICPS) Program For Families
Strengthening Families Program
Structural Family Therapy
Treatment Foster Care (TFC)

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