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Strengthening Families Program


Karol L. Kumpfer, Ph.D.
University of Utah
250 So. 1850 E. Rm. 215
Salt Lake City, UT 84112

(801) 581-8498         Fax: (801) 581-5872

Family Skills Training Speciality
6-12 years Target
Exemplary I Rating

The Strengthening Families Program (SFP) is a 14-session family skills training program designed to increase resilience and reduce risk factors for substance abuse, depression, violence and aggression, delinquency, and school failure in high-risk, 6-12 year old children and their parents. This behavioral and cognitive skills training program was developed by Dr. Karol L. Kumpfer and associates at the University of Utah in 1982 with NIDA research funds. SFP is recognized by many federal agencies (e.g., NIDA, OJJDP, CSAP, CMHS, DoEd, ONDCP, and NIAAA) as an exemplary, research-based family model. Positive results from over 15 independent research replications demonstrate that the program is robust and effective in increasing assets and protective factors by improving family relationships, parenting skills, and improving youth's social and life skills. SFP has been modified for African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic and American Indian families, rural families, and families with early teens. Canadian and Australian versions have also been tested. Although originally developed for children of substance abusers, SFP is effective and widely used with non-substance abusing parents in many settings: schools, churches, mental health centers, housing projects, homeless shelters, recreation centers, family centers, and drug courts.

The SFP curriculum includes three courses (Parent Skills Training, Children's Skills Training and Family Life Skills Training) taught in fourteen two-hour periods. In the first hour, parents and children participate in separate classes, each class led by two co-leaders. Parents learn to increase desired behaviors 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 anger and 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 structured family activities, therapeutic child play, family meetings, communication skills, effective discipline, reinforcing positive behaviors in each other, and jointly planning family activities. Incentives for attendance, positive participation, homework 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 SFP graduates are encouraged.

As one of the most replicated family programs, SFP has been evaluated by many independent investigators using standardized clinical and prevention measurement instruments. All have reported similar positive results in preventing substance abuse, conduct disorders, and depression in children and parents, and improving parenting skills and family relationships. These positive results were first demonstrated in the original NIDA research study (1983 to 1987) employing a true experimental design with random assignment to four groups. Six CSAP grantees have also evaluated culturally-tailored SFP versions for African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander, and American Indian families. A recent CSAP Predictor Variable grant employing a two-year longitudinal, true experimental randomized design found a rural school model of SFP highly effective (.85 to 1.11 Effect Sizes) in decreasing anti-social behaviors, conduct disorders, and aggression. Interim results of a current NIDA effectiveness research study with African-American and white families in Washington, D.C. suggest positive results in reducing children's behavior problems (e.g., aggression and conduct disorders) and improving children's social skills


Implementation Costs:

The program requires a part-time site coordinator and family recruiter and four trainers to deliver the program (two parent trainers and two children's trainers). The program costs per course (one group of up to 14 families) vary tremendously depending on whether existing staff is employed as part of their regular job. If not, for about $500 per month each, trainers can be hired hourly to run the groups one evening a week. Program costs should include $300 for purchasing a basic set of six newly revised SFP manuals including Spanish version (e.g., Family Skills Training, Children's Skills Training, Parent Skills Training, Children's Handbook, Parents' Handbook, and the Implementation Manual). Once a single set is purchased, the site is then free to copy the manuals for trainers and the handbooks for families. It is also recommended that funds be budgeted for childcare, family meals, and transportation as well as for incentives for homework completion and graduation. General supplies are needed such as toys and minimal paper supplies

Training Costs:

A minimum of two to three days is necessary for two co-trainers to train 10 to 40 participants. The training covers prevention theory, history, logistics, staffing, recruitment and retention, evaluation results, and extensive participant simulation/practice on each component (parent skills training, children's skills training, and family skills training). A two day training is $2,700 plus travel expenses (hotel, airfare, and per diem.) A three day training is $3,700 plus travel expenses. On-site practice and follow-up supervision have been found to be extremely helpful in implementing this prevention intervention curriculum. Additional consultation and technical assistance are available in grant writing, program evaluation, data analysis and reporting, training and implementation, and are usually negotiated on an individual basis.

To inquire about scheduling a training of group leaders to deliver SFP for your agency or community, contact Dr. Henry Whiteside of Lutra Group; or (801) 583-4601.


Revised 11/10/2002

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