How FAST Works
FAST® (Families & Schools Together) is an internationally acclaimed parent engagement program that supports the family bonding necessary for children to thrive.
Built on evidence-based practices and rigorously tested, FAST:
- Empowers parents to become more effective family leaders;
- Builds positive connections and social capital between families and schools; and
- Creates a supportive community engaged in fostering children’s well-being and education.
The cumulative effects of FAST can change the course of children’s lives. After a single 8-week FAST Cycle, children’s school behavior problems improve and emotional problems diminish at home and at school. Parent-child bonding strengthens and family conflict declines. Academic performance improves, and children get along better with their parents and with their peers. In short, FAST applies research and evidence-based family therapy practices to promote the full potential of every child. Learn more about the statistically significant outcomes of FAST.
Brief Overview of FAST®
The 8-week FAST Program brings multiple families together once a week in dynamic after-school gatherings. In each 2.5-hour session, a trained FAST Team guides families through a scientifically structured agenda of evidence-based activities that enhance parenting skills and reduce family stress while encouraging family bonding. As a result, the family unit of the FAST Child is systematically strengthened with experiences based on family therapy principles that help parents be firmly in charge of and lovingly connected to their children. Learn more about Program Structure.
Each FAST Session includes group activities as well as one-on-one parent-child interaction and parent group time. Fast-paced and engaging, FAST activities are educational, fun and emotionally rewarding for all participants.
In fact, FAST has one of the highest retention rates among early intervention parenting programs – especially among low-income, stressed and isolated parents: 80% of families who attend one session will successfully complete the entire 8-week program. Each 8-week FAST Cycle ends with FAST Graduation, a congratulatory and often emotional celebration of the stronger family bonds and better community support achieved by the group.
Following FAST Graduation, FAST Graduate Families continue to meet on a monthly basis for two years. This essential element of FAST, called FASTWORKS, is organized and led by the Parent Graduates – further empowering them to strengthen family relationships, act as their child’s advocate, and become leaders in their community and school. In the process, parents and families build a school community that serves as a critical network of social support.
Building Protective Factors: 6 Strategies of FAST®
FAST utilizes six strategies based on research about how children succeed and families flourish. These strategies address:
- The child’s interpersonal bonds
- The family system
- Parent-to-parent support
- Parent peer social network
- Parent empowerment training
- School/community affiliation
Each strategy applies tested approaches that have been published by various researchers in referred journals and funded by numerous Federal agencies and programs, including:
- U.S. Department of Education Investing in Innovation (i3), Office of Education Research Improvement (OERI) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Children, Youth and Families
- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
FAST integrates these strategies in a replicable approach to prevention that delivers consistent positive outcomes across ethnicity, culture, language and socio-economic situation in rural and urban settings.
Unique Features of FAST®
A number of characteristics make FAST unique among prevention and early intervention programs and parenting skills courses, including:
- Family-to-family interaction. Based on family systems theory and family stress theory, FAST brings families together in dynamic groups to systematically build relationships that get parents involved in school and active in their community.
- Learning by doing, not lecture. Every FAST Session integrates child psychiatry, child psychology, play therapy, family therapy, family stress theory, self-help group dynamics and parent empowerment to give families many opportunities to learn and practice healthy new behaviors. Through experience and weekly repetition, these positive patterns become instilled in each family.
- Parent empowerment. FAST Team Members are acutely mindful of the necessity of respecting and supporting parents as leaders of their families. For instance, instead of making general announcements to the entire room, FAST Team Members speak unobtrusively to the parent, empowering them to convey instructions directly to their children.
- Cultural adaptation. FAST Teams reflect the local culture, ethnicity, language, gender balance and social class of the families served. Up to 60% of FAST can and should be adapted to fit local priorities and needs.
- Pre- and post-survey assessment. Detailed surveys of FAST Parents and the teachers of FAST Children are conducted before and after each 8-week FAST Cycle to assess program effectiveness and identify opportunities for improvement. These findings are also collected and tabulated at the national level to continually evaluate and evolve FAST.
Because of these differentiating features, FAST supports systemic change in the family, school and community to promote the full potential of every child.
In addition to being evidence-based, FAST is values-based. Every individual who implements FAST upholds and demonstrates the FAST Values in every aspect of his or her involvement.
The ten core values of FAST are as follows:
- Parents are capable of being the primary teachers and nurturers for their own children.
- Families are central and critical to children’s educational performance.
- Stress and social isolation diminish parental effectiveness; social support increases parental effectiveness.
- Trusting relationships support the ability of families to access helping resources.
- Policies and practices of organizations should always support and include parents to enhance the parent child relationship, rather than undercut or isolate the parent from his/her child.
- Schools should be welcoming to all families.
- Alcohol and drug abuse keeps families from succeeding; prevention, intervention and treatment of the problems of drug misuse increases the family’s ability to succeed.
- Collaboration across systems to address the needs of all children is a necessary and important process.
- Poverty, racism, and sexism adversely affect children in their development.
- All parents love their children, and want a better life for them.