FAST® Program Fidelity: The Foundation of FAST Success
FAST has achieved consistent positive outcomes in thousands of settings around the world – across ethnicities, cultures, languages and socio-economic class. To assure success, the FAST Program requires thorough training, evaluation and certification of the people who run FAST at the local level (FAST Teams). Led by a Certified FAST Trainer, each FAST Team learns about the research behind FAST, as well as the mechanics of running the program to assure the greatest benefit to participating families, schools and the community.
Who Runs FAST
At the local level, FAST is implemented by trained 4- to 8-person FAST Teams comprised of parents, teachers, other school representatives, and community-based professionals at the Middle School and High School levels, youth are also provided with leadership opportunities within the team. Each FAST Team is representative of the population served, that is, consistent with the gender, ethnicity and culture of the participating families.
Each FAST Team includes:
- For the first FAST Cycle, one parent partner whose child is currently in the school grade participating in FAST. For FAST Programs that have completed one or more FAST Cycles, two to three FAST Graduate Parents;
- One school partner, ideally a school teacher for the targeted student population;
- Two community partners who are knowledgeable about local community resources, often with expertise in substance abuse prevention or mental health and emotional well-being;
- One recreation coordinator who organizes child or youth activities and exercises
- At the Middle School level, one youth advocate (a school employee), and one graduate youth partner (a high school aged youth) are part of the team.
- At the High School level, three youth partners are included.
Each FAST Team forms a “hub” serving eight to 10 participating FAST Families. Several FAST Teams can collaborate to run multiple hubs simultaneously to serve larger populations, such as an entire grade level of children and their families.
To provide parents with the tools they need to help children meet the challenges of each transition and developmental milestone, FAST is available at the Elementary School level (for families with children ages 3-10), Middle School level (ages 11-14), and High School level (ages 14-18). While the core values of FAST remain the same at all levels, the activities have been adjusted to meet the needs of the target child’s age. Each level helps families develop and strengthen specific protective factors so children of all ages can reach their full potential.
FAST Process: Learn. Plan. Do. Review.
Every FAST Cycle involves four critical phases that assure the program runs smoothly, adheres to evidence-based practices, generates positive outcomes, and provides insights for future improvements.
FAST begins with learning. Prior to the first FAST Cycle, a Certified FAST Trainer conducts a comprehensive two-day program orientation to prepare FAST Team Members to run the program accurately and efficiently.
The FAST Team prepares to run the FAST Cycle, organizing logistics such as location and schedule, children’s activities and gathering materials. In addition, the FAST Team plans how it will recruit families and youth to participate in the program.
The FAST Team launches the FAST Cycle with an open invitation to families of all children and youth within a classroom or grade level. This universal invitation means that “at-risk” students are not singled out, so there is no stigma attached to participating in FAST.
Compelling incentives encourage attendance, including fun family activities, a free evening meal and free child care. FAST Parent Partners invite families to “just try it once.” The result: 80% of families who attend one FAST Session will return to successfully complete the program – one of the highest retention rates among parent empowerment programs.
Using the results of pre-program and post-program surveys completed, Certified FAST Trainers help FAST Teams evaluate the outcomes they’ve achieved. This process provides the feedback that FAST Teams need to understand the impact of FAST in their own communities. Successes are celebrated, and opportunities for improvement are identified and implemented. Equally important, the data for every FAST Cycle across the United States and abroad is tabulated by Families and Schools Together, Inc. – quantifying FAST’s outcomes as well as providing a source of information for continual improvement.