FAST Through the Eyes of Participating Families

January 16, 2018

Dr. Melodie Fearnow-Kenney, from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for School-Community Collaboration, and her colleagues recently investigated child and parent perceptions of FAST in their empirical article, “Child and Parent Voices on a Community-Based Prevention Program.”

While Fearnow-Kenney and her colleagues acknowledge the vast efficacy research that has been conducted on FAST, they were specifically interested in understanding something that has been relatively absent from the literature: how FAST families, specifically children, conceptualize their experiences in the program.

Dr. Fearnow-Kenney and other authors were eager to see how consumers might inform programmatic adjustments, arguing that the strategies used to elicit consumer feedback could be easily replicated by community agencies running FAST, helping not only with program adaptations, but also with program evaluation and stakeholder buy-in. Likewise, the authors argue that the efficacy of evidence-based programs is largely dependent on consumer buy-in, which can only be achieved by involving consumer voice into program adaptations.

The authors found that children were able to effectively relay their experiences of FAST, and that the majority of comments were positive. “Target children reported enjoying most aspects of the FAST program including gym/outside time, the dinners, spending time with family, the “special play” time, songs, and playing games.

Suggested changes to the program were to add more free time to play with friends, increase the length of the program (i.e., the time of each session), and add more interesting songs.”

Study participants were majority African American children and parents/grandparents from an urban and rural community near Richmond, Virginia. The study used focus groups with children (both target children and siblings) as well as open-ended survey questions with parents.

Questions that were asked of children during each focus group included:
1. What did you like most about FAST? What do you enjoy most that involves the entire family?
2. What did you like least about FAST? What did you not like?
3. What would you change about the program if we were to start over? What would you add to the program? What would you take out?
4. Do you ever think about FAST on non-FAST days? When? Can you give examples?
5. Has being in FAST changed anything between you and your family? Can you give examples of things that have changed?
6. Has being in FAST changed anything related to your friends? Has it changed how you make friends or how you communicate with friends?
7. What did you think of the “special play” time?
8. Can you tell me anything that happened in your life as a result of participating in FAST?

The authors used the open-ended questions that are part of the FAST post-intervention survey to learn about parents’ experiences with the program. Then, through a structured coding process and a technique called concept mapping, the authors analyzed the data and created a visual diagram for each of the three groups of participants.

According to the authors, child reports gathered from the focus groups were “overwhelmingly positive” and “few differences between the target (‘special play’) children and non-target children were observed” (234). Indeed, both child concept maps revealed that all participating children benefited in a number of ways as a result of FAST. For example, children reported making friends, feeling happier, and reported making better decisions. See below for the target child concept map:


Similarly, parent reports demonstrated substantial program buy-in and revealed having benefited substantially from FAST. For example, parents expressed improved relationships with their children, increased knowledge of community supports, and reported being more open to the community and school. See below for the parents concept map:

Of note, you can also view the siblings concept map.

Families & Schools Together is thrilled to see how children and families are benefiting from FAST. We hope that this consumer-focused research will continue, and that community-based organizations and our FAST community can replicate this methodology to increase family buy-in and gather invaluable information regarding the needs and desires of participants.

You can read the full article by clicking here.