By the time families participate in FAST® – Middle School Level, the parent-child relationship is evolving. While parents continue to be a central influence in their children’s lives, youth ages 10–14 are exploring independence and social relationships outside the family.

In a FAST Cycle, middle school families meet for 10 weeks, followed by 2 years of monthly FASTWORKS® meetings. The weekly sessions follow a prescribed format of activities which balances family-oriented activities with opportunities for youth to practice leadership, decision-making, and positive communication skills.

Each session begins with parents and their children participating in activities as a family unit. This builds cohesiveness and provides opportunities for parents to strengthen their role in the family hierarchy. Parents and youth then participate in separate peer activities to build social capital and relationships within their communities. Next, the parent and youth come together to engage in focused one-to-one time in which they practice discussing issues in an open and respectful manner. The evening concludes with activities involving all families that reinforce the importance of reciprocity and ritual.

Additionally, youth participate in a separate youth group that meets during the school day and begins 4 weeks before the family sessions. The Youth Group provides additional opportunities for youth to practice decision-making, problem-solving, conflict resolution, and leadership skills.

FAST Sessions are led by a team that continues to empower parents while balancing the perspective of youth. This collaborative team is culturally and ethnically representative of the families participating in the program, and it includes:

  • One (1) Youth Partner, a middle school youth who attends the school in which FAST is being held;
  • One (1) Youth Advocate, a school employee who ensures the youth perspective is heard;
  • One (1) Parent Partner whose child is not currently participating in FAST but attends the school in which FAST is being held;
  • One (1) School Partner, ideally a classroom teacher for the targeted student population, but could include a school psychologist, school secretary, school librarian, etc.; and
  • Two (2) Community Partners who are knowledgeable about local community resources, at least one of whom has expertise in mental health and emotional well-being or substance abuse prevention.