Professor Lynn McDonald was awarded her PhD in Psychology from the University of California-Irvine, School of Social Sciences, in 1976. Before that she obtained a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland-Baltimore Campus in 1968. She did studies Philosophy for her Bachelor of Arts and Science, Oberlin College, 1966. She is a certified family therapist, AAMFT, and a mother of 2, grandmother of 3.

Professor McDonald joined Middlesex University in 2008. Previously she was a Reader at Brunel University School of Social Work, a researcher for 10 years at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin Centre for Education Research, and for 12 years an Assistant Professor of Social Work, University of Wisconsin-Madison. She volunteered with the British Psychological Society for three years to produce a report on social inclusion with child mental health through evidence based parenting programmes. She is currently serving on the NHS National Council for Equity and Diversity. She is a consultant for the United Nations (UNODC) for delivering evidence based family skills programs especially in developing countries (e.g. Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Brazil and Iran).

McDonald developed a multi-family group programme called Families and Schools Together in 1988. FAST has now been trained, had supervised implementation, and evaluated in 19 countries, for over 250,000 families, under her direction. It has been positively recognized for 80% retention rates in low-income communities with socially marginalized families, to increase child-well being by building relationships and protective factors against toxic stress of poverty and racism. FAST is recognized for putting theory into practice to reduce child abuse and neglect and increase family cohesion and positive parenting and having parents as partners in strengthening schools and communities and local social capital.  FAST is an evidence based social intervention. It has been proven to be effective with randomized controlled trials, and is now widely disseminated.

McDonald was a recipient of the competitive Chancellors Distinguished Teaching Award at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has taught child psychiatrists and social workers in the areas of family therapy with low-income populations; service-user involvement in training and planning local adaptations of evidence based programs; social interventions with children and families delivered by multi-agency teams; assessment and interventions with families under stress, including economic and social stresses; child development normal and abnormal; quantitative and qualitative evaluation of social interventions; and co-production strategies for building social capital systematically in local areas.

Middlesex University now offers a new post-graduate diploma in Evidence based Parenting Programmes, with a specialty in FAST (Families and Schools Together. It is the only such academic course offered in the world.

All social work students in BA1 at Middlesex University are offered the opportunity to participate for credit in FAST training and supervised implementation to learn about a community development strategy to reduce risk and increase protective factors for all children. This is of value for a public health model as well as prevention of child abuse and neglect. FAST is one of the only evidence based family skills programmes in the world developed by a social worker, and uniquely, strategically and respectfully builds relationships and empowers parents in small groups, while increasing social capital and child well being. Outcomes are measured pre-post intervention with standardized instruments with established validity and reliability (SDQ by Goodman). Students learn about co-production through experience working alongside service users, and multi-agency working on teams with professionals from health, education and social care.

McDonald’s Key areas of research interest are developing social and family interventions based on multiple theories from the social sciences, i.e. moving theory into practice to address urgent social problems. This includes Paulo Freire Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  She is interested in family strengthening and group approaches which can be implemented and evaluated and are proven to address inequalities and disparities in local populations in health, education and social care. She is interested in reducing social-contextual toxic stresses by building the protective factors of caring relationships within the local disadvantaged community in the family, with schools and with communities.
She is interested in developing and testing evidence based social and family practices, which have the values of social justice and anti-oppression. She is also active in creating quality assurance structures for effective dissemination of social practices widely. She is committed to service users who are culturally representative to deliver local programs in low-income communities, which are theory based and rigorously tested and proven to be effective in dissemination.

  • Fletcher, J., Fairtlough, A., & McDonald, L. (2013): Engaging young parents and their families in a multi-family group work intervention: lessons from a pilot in England, Practice: Social Work in Action,
  • McDonald, L. and Doostgharin, T. (2013) UNODC Global Family Skills Initiative: Outcome evaluation in Central Asia of Families and Schools Together (FAST) multi-family groups. Social Work & Social Sciences Review 16(2) pp.51-75.
  • McDonald, L., Coover, G., Sandler, J., Thao, T., & Shalhoub, H. (2012) Cultural adaptation of an evidence based parenting programme with elders from South East Asian in the US: co-producing Families and Schools Together: FAST. Journal of Children’s Services. Vol. 7 (2), p 113-128.
  • Davis, F., McDonald, L. & Axford, N. (2012) TINE: British Psychological Services Report. BPS, London
  • McDonald, L., Fitzroy, S., Fuchs, I., Fooken, I., & Klasen, H. (2012). Strategies for high retention rates of low-income families in FAST (Families and Schools Together): An evidence-based parenting programme in the USA, UK, Holland and Germany. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 9 (1): 75-88.
  • Kratochwill, T., McDonald, L., Levin, J., Scalia, P., Coover, P. (2009) Families and Schools Together: A Randomized Trial of School based Family Support for Children’s Mental Health  Journal of School Psychology 47(4) pp.245-265
  • McDonald, L. (2009). Evidence-based, family strengthening strategies to reduce delinquency: FAST—Families and Schools Together. In A. R. Roberts & G. J. Greene (Eds.), Social Workers’ Desk Reference (pp. 659-665). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • McDonald, L., Conrad, T., Fairtlough, A., Fletcher, J., Green, E., Moore, E., Sellars, S. (2009) Evaluation of groups for teenage mothers. Child and Family Social Work. Vol 14 (1), pp 45-57.
  • Pollner, M. & McDonald-Wikler, L. (2008) The social construction of unreality: A case study of a family's attribution of competence to a severely retarded child (included from 1985 Family Process in Hutchby, I. (Ed) Methods in Language and Social Interaction. Volume 2. Chapter 12. Sage Publishers
  • McDonald, L., Moberg, D.P., Brown, R., Rodriguez-Espiricueta, I., Flores, N.I., Burke, M.P., & Coover, G. (2006). After-school multifamily groups: A randomized controlled trial involving low-income, urban, Latino children. Children & Schools, 28, 25-34.
  • Warren, K.W., Moberg, D.P., & McDonald, L. (2006). FAST and the arms race: The interaction of group aggression and the Families and Schools Together program in the aggressive and delinquent behaviors of inner-city elementary school students. The Journal of Primary Prevention,  27(1), 27-45.
  • Warren, K.W., Schoppelrey, S., Moberg, D.P., & McDonald, L. (2005). A model of contagion through competition in the aggressive behaviors of elementary school students.  Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 33(3), 283-292.
  • Kratochwill, T.R., McDonald, L., Levin, J.R., Young Bear Tibbetts, H., & Demaray, M.K. (2004). Families and schools together: An experimental analysis of a parent-mediated multi-family group intervention program for American Indian Children. Journal of School Psychology, 42, 359-383.
  • McDonald, L., & Sayger, T. (1998). Impact of a Family and School Based Prevention Program on Protective Factors for High Risk Youth. Drugs and Society 12, 61-85.
  • McDonald, L, Billingham, S., Conrad, T., Morgan, N., & Payton, E. (1997). Families and Schools Together (FAST): Integrating community development with clinical strategies. Families in Society, 78(2), 140-155.
  • McDonald, L., Billingham, S., Dibble, N., Rice, C., & Coe-Braddish, D. (1991). FAST: An innovative substance abuse prevention program. Social work in education 13(2), 118-128.
  • McDonald-Wikler, L., Hanusa, D., & Stoycheff, J. (1986). Home-based respite care, the child with developmental disabilities and family stress:  Some theoretical and pragmatic aspects of process evaluation. In C.L. Salisbury & J. Intagliata (Eds.), Respite care: Support for persons with developmental disabilities and their families (pp. 243-262). Baltimore, MD: Paul Brooks
  • Wikler, L. (1986). Periodic stress of families of older children with retardation: An exploratory study. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 90(6), 703-706.
  • McDonald-Wikler, L. (1986) Social work and developmental disabilities. Social Work Encyclopedia. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers.
  • Slater, M., Eicher, L., & McDonald-Wikler, L. (1986) Survey: Statewide family support systems. Journal of Applied Research in Mental Retardation, 7, 241-257.
  • McDonald-Wikler, L. (1986). Family stress theory and research of families of children with mental retardation. In Families of Handicapped Persons: Research, Programs, and Policy Issues (pp. 167-195). Baltimore, MD: Paul Brooks and Co.

Research Support (1996-2013)

  • US Dept of Education i3 Innovations; Education Disparities addressed through FAST changing school climate and reducing the obstacles to learning which are outside the classroom, from the home and the community.  RCT 5 year $15 million  2013-2018 UW-Madison
  • Save the Children UK funds Middlesex University for national FAST scale-up project of training, supervision and evaluation of implementations of FAST in low-income communities to address disparities; knowledge transfer; dissemination research  £10.5 million (PI-McDonald) 2010-2016
  • ESRC Research Development Initiative for UK social work academics 1yr £100,000 2010-2011
  • NAPP National Academy of Parenting Practitioners UK, training and evaluation through CWDC, Government funds; 2009-2010 - $1 million, (McDonald PI)
  • National Institute of Child Health and Development, NICHD “Social Capital and Children’s Development: An Experimental Study” (co-PI McD; A. Gamoran, R. L. Turley, and C. Valdez), $4.2 million, 7/08-6/13.  Supplement to promote diversity, $160,000, 7/2008-4/2013
  • Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), US Dept of Justice. Developing Quality Assurance mechanisms to Take FAST to Scale: Prevent Youth Violence and Delinquency: PI. McD $4 million - 2004-2007
  • Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), US Department of Justice, Teenage Mothers & Baby FAST. To reduce child abuse and neglect with teenage parents and their infants (birth to age 3 and Increase Reach (PI.McDonald) $3 million , 2001-2004
  • National Institute of Drug Abuse FAST effectiveness study (McDonald co-PI with P Moberg)  1996-2001 $2.4 million 5 year RCT

FAST: Evidence based Model, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Exemplary, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention US Dept of Justice

FAST US National Registry of Evidence Based Practice NREPP: Highest rating

FAST in UK evidence based parenting programme: CWDC

FAST United Nations Office of Drug and Crime UNDOC: evidence based family skills

FAST Save the Children UK: partnership/advocates for poor children in schools/scale-up

FAST England government as 1 of 10 universal parenting evidence based programmes (NAPP; PEIPS; C4EO; CAN Parenting)

McDonald developed FAST in 1988. Developing, replicating, testing its efficacy, and dissemination of FAST has been awarded government funding which is over $100 million. This work has been awarded funds from US National Institute of Health, National Departments of Education, and Administration of Children and Families (social work), child abuse prevention money, drug prevention money, child mental health promotion money, delinquency and crime prevention money, because stronger families and communities benefits everyone. UK funding has come from CWDC, and Save the ChildrenUK has raised significant funds from Morrisons’ Grocery stores and Lloyds Bank, and has committed itself to work with Middlesex University to get FAST as a right for every young child in Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England. They see the protective factors against stress of the relationships (parent child bond, reduced family conflict, parent to parent networks, reduced social isolation, parent involvement in schools, and parent leadership in communities as a proven strategy for lifting the level of child-well being in the United Kingdom. The UNICEF report on child well being in all industrialized nations in 2007 declared UK has having the lowest level of child well-being of all countries they studied. FAST may be a strategy to help address these statistics.