The Strengthening Families Program (SFP) is an evidence-based family skills training program for high-risk and general population families that is recognized both nationally and internationally. Parents and youth attend weekly SFP skills classes together, learning parenting skills and youth life and refusal skills. They have separate class training for parents and youth the first hour, followed by a joint family practice session the second hour.
Dr. Karol L. Kumpfer developed the original evidence-based SFP 14-session program in 1982 on a National Institute of Drug Abuse grant for substance-abusing parents with children ages 6 to 11 years (SFP6-11). The purpose of the grant was to discover what skills parents needed to keep their kids from using alcohol and drugs.
SFP has been replicated by multiple agencies in the USA and Europe for the past 30 years with outstanding results. SFP is now taught in all 50 U.S. states and 36 other countries.
In 2001 classes for families with younger children (SFP Birth-3 and SFP3-5) were developed as well as classes for teens (SFP12-16). (Dr. Kumpfer also helped create a 7-session SFP 10-14 version for low-risk Iowa families.)
Randomized control trials (RCTs) have found positive results with families in many different ethnic groups.
The SFP family relationship skills are useful for all families – not just those at risk.
SFP DVD & ONLINE VIDEOS
To make SFP skills available to every family, Dr. Karol Kumpfer and Jaynie Brown created a new low-cost SFP Home-Use DVD and online video course for families with children from ages 7-17 years. The SFP video lessons are for parents and youth to watch together and practice the SFP skills at home. It is sold for $5 through the Strengthening Families non-profit Foundation,
The videos teach the same research-proven skills as the original SFP classes, with added material on anger management, the harmful impact of alcohol and drugs on the developing teen brain, and Mindfulness.
The series has ten 30-minute SFP lessons, plus an Intro lesson on how the brain develops and encodes new skills through practice, and how to keep it healthy and powerful.
SFP 7-17 Handouts can be printed from the DVD itself or from this website free of charge.
ALTERNATE DVD USES
The SFP DVD is also used to teach SFP lessons in-home, in clinics, in multi-family DVD Discussion Groups, and as a Middle School Health Class parent-student homework assignment, all with outstanding results.
SFP 7-17 CURRICULUM
A new 11-session class curriculum (SFP 7-17) for universal families that uses video clips from the DVD was also developed. It was pilot-tested with over 200 families; and outcomes were similar to the original SFP versions.
SFP facilitator training is available for all SFP ages and versions. While it is not mandated to purchase and use SFP material, it is recommended to obtain the best possible outcomes.
OUTCOMES & ENDORSEMENTS
The original Strengthening Families Program lessons have been evaluated in non-experimental and quasi-experimental studies in 17 countries; and in randomized control trials (RCTs) in nine countries (United States, Canada, Australia, UK, Sweden, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, and Thailand) with different cultural groups by independent evaluators. Using documented evaluation tools, SFP skills-training proved to be effective in reducing multiple risk factors for later alcohol and drug abuse, mental health problems, and delinquency. Participants reported:
- Increased family bonding
- Increased parental involvement
- Increased positive parenting skills
- Increase positive communication
- Increased family organization
- Decreased family conflict
- Decreased youth depression
- Decreased youth aggression
- Increased youth cooperation
- Increased number of prosocial friends
- Increased youth social competencies
- Increased youth school grades
WHY SFP WORKS
SFP is effective because it was specifically crafted to increase Protective Factors and reduce the Risk Factors that lead to both substance abuse and youth depression.
SFP teaches–and has parents and youth practice–skills involved in bonding (creating warm, loving relationships), setting clear, firm boundaries (rules against antisocial behavior, including drug and alcohol use), and monitoring their children’s emotional well-being and activities to see that they always stay in an alcohol and drug-free social environment.
Skill practice creates new prosocial habit patterns in the brain, which helps improve behavior, strengthens the parent-child relationship, and helps a child feel loved.
SFP thus produces micro-environmental changes in a young person’s life that make use of addictive substances very costly in terms of losing parental approval and also losing privileges. Teen substance use thus decreases.
Child maltreatment also decreases as parents learn better parenting skills, and practice stress and anger management techniques.
SFP is now being tested for the prevention of child abuse as an evidence-based program in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) grants to several states and tribes.
TOP PREVENTION TOOL
SFP is also widely used as a universal primary prevention intervention as communities, schools, and churches offer SFP classes or SFP DVD Family Discussion Groups in the evenings. By inviting all families, they also attract high-risk families without making them feel stigmatized.
With a 30-year successful track record, SFP is rated at the top of the Evidence-Based Interventions list by most national and international review groups including:
- SAMHSA Model Programs
- NIDA Red Book (one of 10 programs)
- OJJDP Strengthening America’s Families (1 of 7 replicated programs)
- US Dept. of ED (one of 8 programs)
- CSAP Model Program
- World Health Org. EBP list 2006
- Cochrane Collaboration – Oxford University (Foxcroft, et al., 2003)
The well-being of a nation depends on strong and loving families. They have the job of producing the next generation of emotionally healthy, responsible, educated citizens who are addiction-free and prepared to maintain the physical and social infrastructure of society. Research shows well-trained parents help youth avoid substance abuse and have better life outcomes:
“Strong families avoid many adverse outcomes: substance abuse, teen pregnancy, school failure, aggression, and delinquency.” (Hops, et al., 2001)
Children are a nation’s most valuable asset. They deserve to grow up in a stable, loving family with nurturing caregivers who protect them from abuse, help them become their best selves, and stay addiction-free.
Addiction has a devastating effect on families and is a major health crisis in America. It costs our nation more than $500 billion a year in social clean-up costs and causes unimaginable human suffering. Yet most addiction begins in adolescence where it is easily preventable:
“The median reported age of initiation of illicit drug use in adults with substance use disorders is 16 years, with 50% of the cases beginning between ages 15 and 18 and rare initiation after age 20.” (American Journal Psychiatry 160:6, June 2003 P. 1041)
Fortunately, research shows most youth substance use can be prevented by parents who are well-trained in three types of skills. They are bonding (creating warm, loving relationships), setting clear boundaries against substance use, and monitoring youth’s activities to see that they always stay in an alcohol and drug-free social environment.
Adolescence is a critical period of brain development, and alcohol and drugs will harm their brains. Substance use also has a serious negative effect on other aspects of children’s lives:
“The younger adolescents are when they start to drink, the more likely they are to engage in risky behaviors, including using drugs… having sex with six or more partners, and earning grades that are mostly D’s and F’s in school.” (NIAAA Alcohol Alert, 1/ 2006, p.1)
Despite these alarming facts, in the 2018 Monitoring the Future survey, 30% of 12th-grade students in America reported drinking. In some states, teen marijuana use sky-rocketed.
PROTECT FROM ACEs
SFP was specifically crafted to train parents and youth in family relationship skills and refusal skills that keep children safe from both addiction and adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s).
When children are neglected or abused, suffering adverse childhood experiences, it negatively affects their developing brain. This puts them at risk for social problems, school failure, depression, delinquency, and substance abuse. This trickles down to the next generation.
Currently, one in 10 American children lives with an addicted parent, putting them at risk for ACEs and 40% more likely to use alcohol or drugs themselves. The ripple effect is huge.
ADULTS MUST PROTECT CHILDREN
Unsuspecting youth are being targeted by alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine product purveyors because they know if they can get kids addicted as youth, they will have steady-paying customers for life. These products harm young brains and limit their potential. All adults have a responsibility to help protect children from neglect, abuse, and alcohol, tobacco, and drug use.
SFP offers an array of enjoyable and affordable prevention products to provide easy-to-learn family-skills training to protect our youth. Please use them.
“Thanks for making the SFP DVD — it changed our life. My husband is a pediatrician and he said it ought to be required for every parent.”
“My husband and I loved Lesson 9 on Monitoring. Our teenage daughter used to be like the “Privacy Lord” and would throw a screaming fit anytime we asked where she was going or what she was doing, Then she went to the Family Session on Monitoring and found out that all the parents were monitoring their kids — that it was a mandatory skill and a gift of love. It suddenly became the “new normal” and she hasn’t thrown a fit since. Her attitude now? “It’s annoying — but it’s just what parents do.” J.O. Ohio
“My favorite lesson was #2 on communication. My brother and me used to get in fights all the time, And now we almost never do.” B.G. (boy age 11) Kansas
“Lesson 9 on Choosing Good Friends was an eye-opener for me. As our Family Coach took us through the handout, I realized that a lot of my friends were taking me where I didn’t really want to go. I have cut so many bad friends since that lesson.” A.S. (girl age 15)
SFP 7-17 In-Home Program Report: “Alex (not his real name) was referred to our SFP 7-17 Intensive In-Home program for aggressive, defiant, manipulative/lying, and non-compliance at school. They had moved to NC from NJ approximately 1 year ago and had been homeless/living at a shelter for families. About the time we met, the family had transitioned to a home environment. Because of my enthusiasm for SFP 7-17 (having practiced the skills myself), Alex’s mother, who has two other children ages 3 and 1, was vocally supportive of SFP from the moment I introduced the program. I feel that Mom’s energized engagement was a key part of the success, and I could see the difference that it made with regard to Alex paying attention throughout the session and utilizing tracking sheets on a consistent basis. What shocked me was that he was interested in learning SFP skills even when his mother could not participate in the lesson. The impact that SFP had on Alex’s problem behaviors is staggering. I watched his defiance, complaints, non-compliance, lying, and inappropriate negative behavior reduce in frequency and intensity and then melt away in about 3 months. The following three months were spent challenging Alex and setting difficult yet achievable goals related to his behavior. As we moved through the lessons, problems related to Alex’s behavior had reduced to the point where he was setting goals to go consecutive weeks without displaying any negative behaviors. By the end of the treatment period, Alex started the school year without any behavior problems at school or home. He now looks for opportunities to teach his siblings and he has been observed using leadership skills in unstructured settings with peers. SFP impact on this home is nothing short of miraculous.” (A.R. Marino, MA, LPC)
We had two articles published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research recently. One featured an analysis of the effectiveness of the SFP Home-Use DVD compared to the SFP group class. The other described the formative evaluation process involved in our NIH Grant to discover from 105 families who had taken an SFP 7-17 class what they liked best about SFP, and what they would like in an online program.
You can read the SFP DVD Effectiveness paper at: https://pediatrics.jmir.org
You can read the Formative Evaluation paper at: https://formative.jmir.org/
SFP recently received a Phase 1 grant from NIDA to study the feasibility of making the SFP DVD into a gamified version for parents and youth to play together online. The report can be read here. We are now applying for Phase 2 grant to make all 10 lessons into a gamified version. If you would like to participate in the research or donate to the project, email us at: strengtheningfamiliesprogram1@