Workers Assistance Program (WAP)

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National Prevention Week Blog Series: Strengthening Families Program

In honor of National Prevention Week, Workers Assistance Program has gotten several of its program directors together to share their thoughts on prevention, their programs, and how substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion are improving our workplaces, schools, and communities. Today, we focus on the Strengthening Families Program (SFP) through the words of its director Maria Matthews. 

Recently, professionals in the field of prevention have incorporated the elements, principles, and approaches of family support into prevention. The focus of family support programs is to promote the acquisition of knowledge and skills that strengthens family functioning. It is well recognized that family support holds the promise of obtaining better outcomes for children and families. 

Family Support is:

  • A set of beliefs with an approach to strengthening and empowering families as well as communities.
  • A type of grassroots, and community- based program designated to prevent family problems.
  • A shift in human services delivery.
  • A movement for social change.
  • Improving the families’ ability to access resources they need.
  • Building relationships based on equality and respect.
  • Celebrating diversity and affirming cultural, racial and linguistic identity.

The Strengthening Families Program is an evidence-based prevention program focusing on reducing family-related risk factors for adolescent problem behaviors and building protective factors in young adolescent children and their parents/caregivers. Since 2008, Workers Assistance Program has provided family-focused prevention services for youth living in the 78744 ZIP code through the Strengthening Families Program. WAP recognizes that youth and families are part of communities with unique cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic characteristics, and our programs strive to meet our community’s needs. To effectively support youth, prevention programs must recognize that children will be happier and healthier when they are raised in strong families, and that families will be stronger when they are living in supportive communities.

SFP facilitates seven two-hour sessions for parents and youth who attend separate skill-building groups for the first hour and spend the second hour together in supervised family activities. The parenting sessions review appropriate developmental expectations, teach parents to interact positively with children (such as showing enthusiasm and attention for good behavior) including active listening, and reducing criticism and sarcasm. The youth sessions includes communication skills, problem solving, peer resistance and coping skills. The family sessions allow the parents and children time to practice what they learned in their individual sessions through the implementation of hands-on family activities. This is also a time for the program facilitators to coach and encourage family members for improvements in parent/child interactions. 

The Strengthening Families Program is highly rated by international and national review groups, including the prestigious World Health Organization, Cochrane Collaboration Reviews in Oxford, United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime in Vienna and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). We assess our program’s successes through measuring increases in family strengths and reductions in risk factors. This includes behavioral, emotional, academic and social problems. SFP is now widely used also as a universal primary prevention intervention in schools, churches, and communities. The Strengthening Families Program is successful because it promotes protective factors, like improved family relationships, parenting skills, and the youth’s social and life skills, which work as effective substance abuse prevention, promote mental wellness, and correct disruptive behavior in the classroom and home.

We are proud to be an effective and contributing member of the local community here in Austin. Prevention is very important to staff in SFP and Workers Assistance Program. If you would like to know more about us, please feel free to contact us at 512-444-9505.