FAST® 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 as leaders of their families,
- Builds positive connections and social capital between families and schools/organizations, and
- Creates a supportive community engaged in fostering children’s well-being and education.
During FAST, families have an opportunity to spend time together, eat a meal, play games, and get to know other families. While the program is most commonly run in a school setting and operates according to education level (early childhood education, elementary, middle, or high school), it can also be facilitated at a community-based organization. Learn more about the basics of the FAST Program. The FAST Team invites families to “just try it once.” The result: 80% of families who attend one FAST Session will successfully complete the program – one of the highest retention rates among parent empowerment programs.
After a single FAST Cycle, parent-child relationships, feelings of school/organization connectedness, and community connections are strengthened. Family cohesion increases and conflict decreases. Parents are more engaged with the school and their children’s education and better connected to other parents. In short, FAST applies research and evidence-based family therapy practices to promote the full potential of every child.
In light of the global coronavirus pandemic, FAST has also adapted to an at-home and/or virtual format. Learn more about FAST at Home.
What makes FAST special?
Several characteristics make FAST a strong choice among prevention and early intervention programs and parenting skills courses, including:
- Family-to-family interaction. FAST brings multiple families together in dynamic groups to build connections. These connections support families at home, in the school, and within their larger community.
- Learning by doing, not lecture. FAST is an experiential program, where families can learn and practice positive parenting and family behaviors, rooted in practices from child psychology, family therapy, and family stress theory, among others.
- Parent empowerment. Throughout the program, FAST Team Members respect and support parents as the leaders and decision-makers of their families. Team Members utilize a specific technique to facilitate the session, allowing parents to give direction and instruction to their own family.
- Cultural adaptation. FAST Teams reflect the local culture, ethnicity, language, gender balance, and socioeconomic status 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. FAST Parents, teachers, and youth (level-dependent) complete surveys before and after each 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.
- Holistic and systemic impact. By building social capital among families and within the existing social structures of schools and communities, FAST accrues benefits that extend beyond the effects of traditional categorical programs. For example, a community that implements four different programs to reduce school failure, truancy, delinquency, and drug addiction could accomplish the same outcomes with the FAST Program.
Because of these differentiating features, FAST supports systemic change in the family, school, and community to promote the full potential of every child.
FAST is also endorsed by local community leaders and education professionals. Hear from some of them in the video below (recording from the Wisconsin Education Forum, presented by Families & Schools Together, on Feb. 9, 2021).
Post-FAST, families continue to meet on a monthly basis for 2 years or more through FASTWORKS, a supplemental program which is led by Parent Graduates.
FASTWORKS provides a supportive environment where families can practice the positive skills they learned during the program and have a forum for working together to reach shared goals. It is designed to:
- unite families and schools to help children succeed;
- empower parents, teachers, children, and families;
- enhance a sense of community; and
- provide a network of knowledge, skills, and understanding.
By taking responsibility for FASTWORKS, parents can act as advocates for themselves and their children, and as leaders in their community and school. FASTWORKS, according to many FAST Parent Graduates, is where they’re able to work to make their hopes and dreams become realities.