The 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 structured agenda of evidence-based activities that support positive parenting skills and reduce family stress while encouraging family bonding.
Each FAST Session includes group activities as well as one-on-one parent-child interaction and parent group time. FAST activities are educational, fun, and emotionally rewarding for all participants. The FAST Cycle ends with a Graduation Ceremony, a congratulatory and often emotional celebration of the stronger family bonds and community support achieved by the group.
How FAST Works: FAST Levels
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
- Early Childhood Education Level (for families with children ages 0-5),
- Elementary School Level (for families with children ages 4-10),
- Middle School Level (for families with children ages 10-14),
- High School Level (for families with children 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.
Who Runs FAST: FAST Team
FAST is implemented by trained 4- to 10-person FAST Teams comprised of local parents, teachers (or 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 race, ethnicity, culture, and language of the participating families.
Each FAST Team includes:
- One (1) parent partner whose child attends the school participating in FAST. For FAST Programs that have completed one or more FAST Cycles, two (2) to three (3) FAST Graduate Parents are encouraged to participate.
- One (1) school partner, ideally a classroom teacher but could also include a school psychologist, school secretary, librarian, etc.
- Two (2) community partners who are knowledgeable about local community resources and represent two different community organizations; at least one will have expertise in substance abuse prevention or mental health and emotional well-being.
- At the Middle School level, one (1) youth advocate (a school employee, typically) and one (1) youth partner (a middle school-aged youth) are part of the team.
- At the High School level, at least three (3) youth partners are included. The Team must have an equal number of youth as adults.
Each FAST Team forms a “hub” serving 8 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.
FAST Training Process
The training process for FAST involves four critical phases that ensure the program runs smoothly, adheres to evidence-based practices, generates positive outcomes, and provides insights for future improvements.
Learn. FAST begins with learning. Prior to the first FAST Cycle, a Certified FAST Trainer conducts a comprehensive 2-day program orientation to prepare FAST Team Members to run the program accurately and efficiently.
Plan. 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.
Do. The FAST Team launches the FAST Cycle with an open invitation to families of all children and youth within a classroom, grade level, or school-wide. This universal invitation means that students are not singled out, so there is no stigma attached to participating in FAST. During the first training cycle, the FAST Trainer conducts a site visit on the first, third, and final night of the program, additionally debriefing with the FAST Team, to strengthen the program.
Review. Using the results of data collected pre- and post-program, 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 is tabulated by Families and Schools Together – quantifying FAST’s outcomes as well as providing a source of information for continual improvement.
FAST is Research-based: An Overview
FAST integrates research and scientific theory in a replicable approach to prevention that delivers consistent positive outcomes across ethnicity, culture, language, and socio-economic situation in rural and urban settings.
Utilizing evidence-based practices derived from social, behavioral, and physiological science, FAST builds protective factors focusing on:
- The child’s interpersonal bonds,
- The family system,
- Parent-to-parent support,
- Parent peer social network,
- Parent empowerment training, and
- School/community affiliation.
Pre- and post-surveys of FAST Parents and teachers (Elementary) or Parents and Youth (Middle, High) provide data needed to identify and quantify changes in family relationships, children’s behavior in school, and parental engagement. Upon completion, the evaluation data is summarized in a comprehensive Evaluation Report that provides site-specific findings and compares the results to the national average of FAST Programs running across the United States.
The clear, scientifically valid data contained in the Evaluation Report:
- clearly depicts the benefits participants gained by participating in FAST;
- helps FAST Teams identify opportunities for improvement when running future FAST Cycles; and
- shows key stakeholders, principals and funders the positive effects of FAST, making the Evaluation Report a valuable tool for enlisting support, securing funds, and sustaining FAST.