In FAST, parents and professionals work in partnership together to support one another in order to help every child succeed. The name of this programme, Families and Schools Together, suggests the fundamental values of co-production. Teachers, parents, professionals, community leaders and neighbours and extended families and volunteers come together for the sake of each child's well-being. 'It takes a village to raise a child.' Thus, the FAST programme is both 'values based' and 'evidence based' (i.e. being on government lists of parenting programmes recommended because of the theory and rigorous research evidence).
FAST manifests its values in the multi-family group processes, in the programme manual, in the site visit reports, and in the programme integrity checklist. For example, a team must have a minimum of one parent partner on the team, or the team cannot host FAST groups. Also, a FAST team must 'look like the families it serves' in terms of race, language, religion and education level, i.e. teams must be culturally representative of families in the school. Parents are supported by the team during the programme. The parents lead the positive structured family activities each week that increase their child's well-being. The team is trained to give all instructions quietly to the parents, and the parents then direct their own children in the FAST activities. There are no lectures by professionals allowed, as all learning in this programme is experiential. This visible and respectful partnership of the team with each parent empowers the parent in their own child's eyes and parents realise that they already knew what to do and just needed some support to find the time to do it.
These standards can be challenging for some communities, as such partnerships may at first feel uncomfortable. The certified FAST trainer works with the team to come to agreement about the values, to learn and support core components, and to locally adapt the programme to express unique local cultural traditions. The FAST manual specifies only 40% of the programme; the other 60% is locally adapted. FAST is the most flexible evidence based family skills programme.
Adaptations respect local knowledge, ideas and strengths. In FAST, the trainer is required to supervise the first group implementation as integral to adult learning: learn, do and review. The trainer visits new schools repeatedly over time to support the teams as they implement their first groups serving 40 families. Pre and post evaluation of each FAST group with standardised instruments (SDQ) is required to ensure child well-being improves locally and that the local adaptations helped the outcomes. A final report is sent to local schools. A public panel of service-user FAST graduates also comment on each group. Commitment to systemic quality assurance of groups in 14 countries and thousands of schools and the lively feedback loop of continuous improvement are core FAST values.
FAST has the lowest drop-out rates (20%) of socially marginalised parents of any parenting programme. Transparency and required monitoring of retention rates includes information about education, income, and race of each FAST participant. The values of social inclusion and parent partnerships at every level contribute to high retention rates of this universal and voluntary programme. Agreement with the values after team discussion during the initial 2-day team training is required as part of programme integrity and signing the values (below) is one of 12 core components of FAST. Groups cannot be implemented unless FAST teams have agreed to the values listed below. There are 8 weekly multi-family group sessions led by the teams. Then, the power and the frequency shifts and FAST parent graduates mobilise monthly reunion sessions for two years. They set the agenda and the school provides them support and a small budget. The start-up weekly meetings strengthen relationships and the parent-run monthly meetings maintain them.
When I was growing up as a child, our family frequently moved from one place to another. I went to many schools in several countries before becoming an adult. I learned several languages and felt at home in cultures of different races, religions and languages. Seeing life events in many parts of the world taught me some lessons. One lesson I learned is the arbitrariness of hate. In some settings, some Turks hate the Greeks, some Germans hate the Turks, some rich hate the poor, some whites hate the blacks, some Christians hate the Muslims, and on and on. Hate towards a category of other people says more to me about the ones doing the hating than anything about those being hated. Hate can also tell us of social political structures with institutionalised racism or sexism, or extreme income inequality.
Living in traditional cultures also taught me lessons about universal human values. The fundamental value of respecting elders and of showing respect for the parents is central. Beliefs that every human being of any age should be valued by each of us with time and kindness are key in traditional cultures. The beliefs in partnership relationships between parents with other parents, schools and communities, can provide parents the social support; social capital and the respect that they deserve to raise children with strong parent-child bonds.
1. Parents are capable of being the primary teachers and nurturers for their own children.
2. Families are central and critical to children's educational performance.
3. Stress and social isolation diminish parental effectiveness; social support increases parental effectiveness.
4. Trusting relationships support the ability of families to access helping resources.
5. Policies and practices of organisations should always support and include parents to enhance the parent-child relationship rather than undercut or isolate the parent from his/her child.
6. Schools should be welcoming to all families.
7. Alcohol and drug misuse impacts on families succeeding; prevention, early intervention and treatment of the problems of drug misuse increases each family's ability to succeed.
8. Collaboration across systems (education, health, child welfare, drugs and crime) to address the needs of all children is a necessary and important process.
9. Poverty, racism, and sexism adversely affect children in their development.
10. All parents love their children and want a better life for them.