A previous blog post explored how relationships with community and social-service organizations can be instrumental in implementing the FAST® Program at your school. The community organization typically leads the FAST implementation, providing funding and support, while working closely with the school.
Organizations contribute to FAST implementations in another significant way — each team includes at least one Community Partner, a social service professional employed by a local community agency. FAST teams are structured to ensure the perspectives of essential stakeholders are represented. Teams typically include a minimum of two Community Partners, a School Partner and Parent Partner, and at the Middle and High School levels, Youth Partners are included.
Community Partners are knowledgeable about local resources and often have expertise in substance abuse prevention or mental health and emotional well-being. These critical team members help families connect to needed resources, serving as a triage program for FAST families. There is confidentiality and trust when families self-refer to people with whom they have an existing relationship. Our research suggests that families often self-refer for these services over their two years of involvement in FAST and FASTWORKS®, indeed 26% of families have been referred for family counseling and 8% for substance abuse counseling.
This connection to resources benefits teams as well as families. “I see the Community Partner as an integral partner to the FAST team because they bring outside awareness of potential resources to the team and families,” says Shelly Cornelius, a social worker who has served as a FAST School Partner for 14 years at Indian Community School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “The Community Partner bridges a gap for families that may seek services outside of the school. Although the program is called Families & Schools Together, I believe the Community Partner reminds parents that there are many types of professionals who are part of their community and willing to assist if needed.”
Beyond connecting families to community resources, the Community Partner shares the same responsibilities as any team member, and they participate in all FAST trainings, team meetings, site visits, and multi-family sessions. In addition, the Community Partner contributes to FAST implementations by:
- Recruiting families through home visits: Accompanied by the Parent Partner, the Community Partner meets families in their homes to introduce FAST. The partners spend time getting to know families and make a personal connection before discussing the possibility of participating in FAST.
- Organizing volunteers: The Community Partner can help recruit, train and coordinate volunteers to help with child care, Kids Time and transportation.
- Coordinating Special Session: Halfway through the weekly sessions, families participate in a Special Session that focuses on a specific topic. The Community Partner is in charge of developing the Special Session around the topic chosen by the families. The Community Partner may deliver the presentation or arrange a speaker. The Community Partner shares expertise and resources with families at all meetings via a resource table, where families can learn more about resources available to them, if needed.
Through partnerships with community and social-service organizations, schools gain the help they need to implement FAST as well as build connections to community resources. To learn more about the FAST Program or discuss the role of the Community Partner, please visit our website at familiesandschools.org or contact us at 888.629.2481.