Overview of FAST
What is the FAST programme?
FAST is a multi-family group approach designed to build protective factors for children to increase their resilience and wellbeing. Weekly groups held after school are open to all families and participation is strictly voluntary. This community strengthening programme is based on the social ecological theory of child development, family systems theory, family stress theory, attachment theory, social learning theory and theories of adult education.
Groups are led by a trained, multi-agency team of professionals from health, education and social care, with parents from the local school as partners. The team must be culturally representative of the families being served in the groups.
FAST is a parent involvement programme for all children in a grade level at a school. The holistic, multi-systemic, relationship-building approach works to prevent bad outcomes for children. A local authority which invests in FAST should have reduced rates of school truancy and school failure, alcohol and drug abuse, youth delinquency and antisocial behaviour, child abuse and neglect, mental health problems, violence and aggression. The focus is on building social capital, social inclusion and promoting the strengths of a school, a local community and all the children and families who live there.
Who is it for?
Primary FAST can be run with children between the ages of 3-8 years old and Secondary FAST is run with 1st year students supported by 4th year students as part of the FAST team.
When does it run?
The FAST programme runs after school for 8 weeks. The weekly sessions are 2.5 hours long, where a series of structured family activities take place. These include communication, listening, turn taking, community building, meal sharing, and relationship building.
These are key techniques to help build stronger families.
How does it work?
A fully-trained FAST team coaches and supports parents through each activity. The FAST programme promotes parent empowerment, so all communication is directed through the parents.
The FAST team uses a technique called table-based coaching to pass all instructions for children and other family members through the parent. FAST activities consistently promote the development of relationships: parent to child, parent to parent, parent to school and parent to community.
Who is on the team?
A complete FAST team is trained together but then split into ‘hub teams’. Each hub team must have:
- 1 school partner: paid employee of the school, ideally support staff not teaching staff
- 2-3 parent partners: parents who have children in the school but not in the class or year for the programme group.
- 1-2 community partners: ideally health, social work, sport and recreation but anyone who lives or works in the community.
Families graduate from the programme at the end of eight weeks and then participate in monthly follow-up meetings called FASTWORKS.
These ongoing meeting sustain the relationships between parents and children as well as the relationships formed between families. With team support, parents design the FASTWORKS agenda to maintain FAST family networks and identify community development goals.
Brief Overview of FAST®
The 8-week FAST Program brings multiple families together once a week in dynamic after-school gatherings. In each 2.5-hour session, a trained FAST Team guides families through a scientifically structured agenda of evidence-based activities that enhance parenting skills and reduce family stress while encouraging family bonding. As a result, the family unit of the FAST Child is systematically strengthened with experiences based on family therapy principles that help parents be firmly in charge of and lovingly connected to their children. Learn more about Program Structure.
Each FAST Session includes group activities as well as one-on-one parent-child interaction and parent group time. Fast-paced and engaging, FAST activities are educational, fun and emotionally rewarding for all participants.
In fact, FAST has one of the highest retention rates among early intervention parenting programs – especially among low-income, stressed and isolated parents: 80% of families who attend one session will successfully complete the entire 8-week program. Each 8-week FAST Cycle ends with FAST Graduation, a congratulatory and often emotional celebration of the stronger family bonds and better community support achieved by the group.
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