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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1: How do we know that the Creating Lasting Family Connections® program is effective?

Creating Lasting Connections®, the demonstration program on which CLFC is based, was implemented in urban, rural, and suburban church communities in and around Louisville, Kentucky. The communities served included primarily African-American, as well as primarily Caucasian populations. In CLFC, both parents and youth received training, and participating families received early intervention services and follow-up case management.

The evaluation, under the direction of Dr. Knowlton Johnson, of Community Systems Research Institute, Inc. (an independent party), used a true experimental design, in that the youth were randomly assigned to either a program or a comparison group. The evaluation also used three repeated measures over a one-year period, which allowed the measurement of both short-term and sustained gains. Another strength of the evaluation was that it examined moderating effects of resiliency factors in multiple domains, which “increases the probability of detecting statistically significant results, which facilitates a more accurate understanding of the effects” of the program (Johnson, Strader, Berbaum, Bryant, Bucholtz, Collins & Noe, 1996: 65).

Some of the main findings included the following. In terms of positive direct effects of the program, there were statistically significant sustained gains by both parents and youth in these areas:

  • use of community services by families with personal/family problems
  • action taken based on the service contact
  • parents’ and youths’ perceived helpfulness of the action taken

Statistically significant short-term effects of the program on parent and youth resiliency outcomes included the following:

  • increased parents’ alcohol and other drug (AOD) knowledge and beliefs
  • increased youth involvement in setting AOD use rules

In addition to these statistically significant short-term gains, short-term gains that were close to being significant were noted in the following areas:

  • increased family communication (parent report)
  • increased bonding with mother (youth report)

Besides the program effects described above, the evaluation also included examination of “moderating effects” in which the program was shown to have “produced positive moderating effects on AOD use among youth as a result of conditional relationships with changes in family-level and youth-level resiliency factors targeted by the program” (Johnson et al., 1996: 63). For example, a family-level factor that served as a moderator variable for delaying the onset of AOD use was increased program-advocated AOD knowledge and beliefs by parents.

The following were statistically significant moderating effects of family and youth resiliency factors on youth AOD use found through the CLC evaluation:

  • Onset of AOD use was delayed among program group youth for one year (sustained gain) as parents (a) increased AOD knowledge and beliefs; (b) decreased family conflict (youth report); and (c) increased likelihood of punishing youth for AOD use.
  • Use of alcohol was reduced in the short term as parents (a) increased AOD knowledge and beliefs; (b) decreased their quantity of smoking tobacco products; and (c) decreased their likelihood of punishing youth for misconduct.

For a more detailed discussion of the CLC evaluation findings, the reader is referred to the primary journal article containing the description and results of the evaluation of Creating Lasting Connections® (the demonstration project from which Creating Lasting Family Connections® was developed). That article appeared in the Journal of Adolescent Research (1996). The authors were Knowlton Johnson, Ted Strader, Michael Berbaum, Denise Bryant, Gregory Bucholtz, David Collins, and Tim Noe. In addition to this article, others appeared in the Journal of Volunteer Administration (Strader, Collins, Noe & Johnson, 1997); in Social Work (Johnson, Bryant, Collins, Noe, Strader & Berbaum, 1998); and an article in the Journal of Community Practice (Johnson, Noe, Collins, Strader & Bucholtz, 2000).

The reader should note that the program effects found in the CLC evaluation resulted from the implementation of the comprehensive CLC model, which included community mobilization, parent and youth trainings, and early intervention/case management and follow-up services. Also, our program achieved meaning violence reduction outcomes in a later study, called Family Connections®, where we achieved a direct effect on reducing uncontrolled behavior in participating youth.

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Question 2: If I implement Creating Lasting Family Connections®, how can I measure whether my implementation is successful?

One can measure their results using the CLFC evaluation kit availabe from Resilient Futures Network.

Community Systems Research Institute, Inc. (CSRI) has developed a CLFC evaluation kit to measure the effectiveness of CLFC replications. CSRI developed this kit based on the evaluation design and findings of the CLC demonstration project. The CLFC evaluation kit (Johnson & Young, 1999) is a comprehensive guide for measuring specific outcomes related to CLFC. The kit includes self-administered surveys (based in part on the CLC parent and youth interviews and the CLC youth questionnaire) for both youth and parents, the psychometric properties of the scales in the surveys, survey administration and scoring guidelines, parent consent forms, and contact information for technical assistance on evaluating CLFC.

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Question 3: What are the main differences between Creating Lasting Family Connections® and the earlier Creating Lasting Connections®?

A key difference is that Creating Lasting Family Connections®, which is the dissemination version of the program, has more flexibility in terms of implementation options. It has a standard implementation option, which uses community advocate teams just as the original Creating Lasting Connections® did. In addition, we have added a school-based implementation option, in which students (typically in grades 6 to 9) can complete the youth modules either during the course of one school year or by spreading the modules out over three school years. In the school-based implementation option, the parents of the students can be concurrently involved in the parent trainings.

In addition to the school-based option, we have other options that acknowledge that in some situations either the parent trainings or the youth trainings can be implemented without the other. For example, the parent training only option might be used either for a group of parents or as a training for social workers, youth service providers, or other adults who work with youth. Similarly, the youth training only option may be viable in either school settings or other organizational settings where parent participation is not likely.

The following three diagrams show the Parent Training (Only) option, the Youth Training (Only) option, and the School-based option. The standard option is described in Chapter 3. First, the Parent Training (Only) option can be offered to parents even if their youth do not participate in the youth trainings. Another version of this option is that these trainings can be offered as a training program for social workers, youth service providers, and other caring adults who work with youth. Training these “impactors” can increase our ability to reach youth in a variety of settings.

Parent Trainings (Only) / Training of Impactors Option

Developing Positive Parental Influences

Raising Resilient Youth

Getting Real Communications Training

The Youth (Only) trainings can be offered without the parent trainings. Another variation is that the trainings in the Youth (Only) option can be offered in consecutive years or spread over the period of one school year.

Youth Trainings (Only) Option

Developing a Positive Response

Developing Independence and Responsibility

Getting Real Communications Training

The following diagram shows the school-based option. This implementation option is similar to the community-based standard option (see Chapter 3) except that it focuses on youth in grades 6 through 9. This option can be implemented either with parents and youth or with youth only. As with the youth only option, the program can be implemented either over the course of a single school year or over three school years. The actual division of grades in which the modules are implemented depends on the organizational structure of the school system involved.

School-Based Option

Grade Youth Trainings Parent Trainings
6th or 7th Developing a Positive Response
Developing Positive Parental Influences
7th or 8th Developing Independence and Responsibility
Raising Resilient Youth
8th or 9th Getting Real Communications Training
Getting Real Communications Training
(Optional) Getting Real: Parent and Youth Combined Sessions

We have also realized that it is important for agencies and organizations that want to implement science-based prevention programs like ours to have flexibility in the training modules used. For example, an organization or community that wants to implement Creating Lasting Family Connections® may already be successfully using an alcohol and other drug issues training. In such cases, it may be beneficial for the community to continue using that ATOD prevention-related issues training, and to combine it with other modules from CLFC in order to establish a more comprehensive prevention program for their community. Combining their existing training modules with ours would not only create a more comprehensive approach, it would reinforce respect for the community investment in programs that they see as their own. This is consistent with our primary belief that it is important in prevention efforts to take advantage of the strengths already present in a community.

A single caveat, however, is needed: The training module or other component an organization decides to retain and use as part of this more comprehensive package for their community must be compatible in its general premises with our other training modules.

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Question 4: How does Creating Lasting Family Connections® achieve involvement of parents?

A significant challenge to the implementation of community-based prevention programs identified by Lorion and Ross (1992) is the difficulty of engaging parents. Yet engaging parents is critical because even though parents often feel inadequate, powerless, or helpless in dealing with a child, research suggests that parental influence is the most powerful factor in prevention (Hazelden Foundation, 1988).

A number of strategies are used to engage parents and other caring adults in the Creating Lasting Family Connections® program. First, in the standard implementation, community advocate teams are recruited and trained to identify and recruit families into the program and to assist in retaining them in the program. These community advocate teams include recognized community leaders who are more likely than outside experts to be able to recruit and retain families successfully.

Second, the parents themselves, once recruited, are actively involved in the parent trainings described in Chapters 3 and 4. Throughout these trainings, the program focuses on the internal motivation that parents possess. We have often noticed that the youth seem to pick up on many of the skills we are teaching more quickly than their parents do, but once both parents and kids experience ways in which the training can benefit their families, a synergy develops that can be very powerful.

Third, once families have been recruited into the program, attention must also be given to retention. In fact, Lorion and Ross (1992) cited program retention as another key challenge to community-based prevention programs. Again, the involvement of community advocate teams is critical to addressing this challenge. The team members typically do a number of things to encourage parents and youth to remain in the trainings and other activities. For example, they may call when a family member is absent from a training session to let the participant know that he or she was missed. The participant is often encouraged to return to a warm welcome on the next training date. Finally, participants are gently encouraged to discuss any problems or conflicts they may be experiencing in the training or in their private life that might interfere with their ability to participate. As a result, the case manager is sometimes able to assist with personal problems and help maintain participation.

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Question 5: How does CLFC achieve involvement of youth?

We have successfully engaged youth, as well as parents, in 20 to 25 weeks of training in communication, AOD issues, and other areas of family life. In Creating Lasting Connections®, the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) demonstration project from which we developed Creating Lasting Family Connections®, we achieved the participation even of high-risk youth in this fairly intensive program in a community setting (i.e., where youth participation was not mandatory as it is in some programs, such as school-based prevention programs). This success is a good indication that many youth are motivated to learn.

Again, as with parents, a key to successfully recruiting and retaining youth is to lay the groundwork for the family component by first mobilizing the community. This process was described in detail in Chapter 5. Not surprisingly, many youth seem extremely happy and encouraged to see their parents participate. In some instances, though, children appear uncomfortable or even embarrassed to be seen in their parents’ presence. Many children between the target ages of 11 to 17 are experiencing a desire to be perceived as independent of their parents. This is especially true for those from ages 13 to 17. (How many of us parents have noticed the physical distance increase between our children and us as we approach the entrance of Wal-Mart?) Some children, though, also seem to have doubts about their own parents’ social acceptability, and this concern may add another level of discomfort to being identified with their parents in public. It is interesting to watch how this dynamic often dissipates after a CLFC facilitator is able to demonstrate a warm acceptance of the parent and the child both separately through individual bonding and collectively, as a family team. Many of these children achieve a new level of acceptance, tolerance, and bonding with their parent by the end of the program.

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Question 6: You have noted that how one defines community is a key to successfully implementing prevention programs. What does this mean for an organization that is interested in implementing Creating Lasting Family Connections®?

We have found through experience that it makes the most sense to link up with people for preventive interventions where “community” of some nature already seems to exist. We also believe that this is true for programs targeting social problems other than substance abuse. “Community” to us means any setting in which people share interests and activities and provide a degree of support for one another. By this definition, a community clearly is not limited to a single geographical entity.

In Creating Lasting Connections®, we targeted high-risk youth and their families through church communities. In Chapter 5, we described in detail our community mobilization strategy, which was first developed within church communities for the CLC program. Here we would emphasize the importance of flexibility in implementing either the community mobilization component or any of the other program components, including the parent and youth trainings. We found, for example, that each community had varying prevailing attitudes toward such issues as alcohol and other drug use. By paying attention to these differences and incorporating the input of community leaders into the program presentations, we were able to successfully mobilize a number of communities that were varied in terms of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and other characteristics.

Variations based on the type of community one is targeting are evident as well. For example, in our Creating Lasting Connections® program, we conducted background research on church communities and found that they share some important characteristics that may set them apart from other types of communities. We found also that church communities tend to be ideal social systems from which to launch preventive programs. There are a number of reasons for this:

– Churches have significant contact with families across their life-span

– Churches often have a number of linkages with human service providers.

– Churches often provide their own social outreach programs.

Different types of communities will have different characteristics that may impact implementation of programs. For example, recreational clubs, such as boys and girls clubs, are very different from churches in terms of parental and youth involvement, and these differences have ramifications for program implementation. Basically, it is important to analyze how community is taking place in whatever setting you are involved. It is helpful to ask yourself whether this is a parent-based community, a child-based community, or a family-based community. Churches are often family-based communities; schools are often child-based communities; recreation centers come in both varieties; and corporations are often parent-based communities. Family-based groups are clearly the best places to recruit and retain family participants.

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Question 7: What makes a good trainer for Creating Lasting Family Connections®?

Through COPES’s experience of facilitating the curricula described in Chapter 3 (including several earlier versions) with thousands of participants, and from training other trainers to facilitate the curricula, we have learned that specific trainer characteristics increase the likelihood of providing a successful training experience.

The following is a list of characteristics we believe are helpful if one is to be an influential and effective trainer:

1. outgoing and caring personality

2. non-judgmental, tolerant of different opinions

3. able to handle and accept ambiguity (can see both sides of an issue)

4. able to hold and model moderate beliefs and attitudes (does not hold or model extreme beliefs and attitudes)

5. natural helping attitude

6. has experienced successful group-oriented personal growth opportunities, including counseling, spiritual development, self-help, or related activities

7. able to recognize, name, and express feelings as they occur

Although anyone who completes our Creating Lasting Family Connections® training of trainers can facilitate the various trainings, trainers who already possess or can quickly learn to display the characteristics listed above will be effective and influential trainers.

In addition, we have found that in order to become a successful trainer, it is important to be able to build meaningful relationships. This takes time, energy, and commitment.

It is helpful to listen to participants and to take them seriously. Once established or strengthened in these relationships, it is helpful to foster responsibility. Responsibility is made up of self-care and care for others. In order to foster this in others, one must demonstrate both self-care and caring for others. Finally, it is important to recognize that extreme attitudes promote extreme behaviors. Moderate attitudes, coupled with a calm approach, take time to develop, but remain effective for long periods of time.

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Question 8: Having discussed characteristics of a good trainer for CLFC, how do you assess trainers’ skills and qualities to implement the program? What training do you offer them based on your assessment?

Most people, even experienced preventionists, need some amount of training to engage in the number and qualitative depth of skills required to successfully implement Creating Lasting Family Connections®. In general, those who are inexperienced as prevention trainers are likely to require up to ten days of training, whereas those who have a good knowledge of prevention and some training experience may require only 5 days of training in order to feel prepared to implement the CLFC program for parents and/or youth.

As we developed Creating Lasting Family Connections®, we saw the need to assess potential trainers’ characteristics, experience, attitudes, and values. This assessment was needed to determine whether to conduct a five- or ten-day training. To address this need, we developed a readiness assessment survey to be administered to all prevention trainers within organizations planning to implement Creating Lasting Family Connections®.

Attitudes and values of trainers are measured by the degree to which they agree or disagree with a number of items around both alcohol and other drug issues and by more general trainer characteristic issues relevant to the CLFC program.

The following statements exemplify the AOD items (preferred responses are shown in parentheses):

– Alcoholics drink alcohol every day. (Strongly disagree)

– It is clearly harmful and dangerous for people to have even one alcoholic drink. (Strongly disagree)

– Regular marijuana use is a harmless and pleasurable practice. (Strongly disagree)

The following are examples of the trainer characteristic and attitude items included in the survey:

– Effective youth workers avoid discussions involving youth feelings of pain, sadness, or anger. (Strongly disagree)

– It is important for children to share in household chores. (Strongly agree)

– Social lies are a good way of protecting people’s feelings. (Strongly disagree)

– Every youth group has a few loudmouths and troublemakers who are always going to be problems. (Strongly disagree)

Once an organization’s trainers have completed the survey, the instrument is scored by comparing actual responses with desired responses. This score provides a good measure of the kind of training needed by the potential trainers.

Staff members of COPES then discuss these scores with the program manager considering training for his staff or volunteers and negotiate a meaningful training plan by looking at training needs, training budget, schedules, and agency commitment. The training plan is also custom designed based on a dialogue between COPES staff and the organization planning to implement Creating Lasting Family Connections®. Thus, in addition to our five- and 10-day training plans, we often provide custom trainings for groups that last three, four, six, eight or nine days, based on the results of the survey, the agency director’s discretion, or (unfortunately) the agency budget.

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Question 9: You discussed what makes a good trainer, but what about community advocate teams? What makes a good team? A good team member?

In our demonstration project, we found that it was desirable for community advocate team members to have certain characteristics. These include the following:

– outgoing personality

– responsibility (for example, is on time for meetings)

– being well connected to the community

– possessing leadership qualities

– assertiveness

– enthusiasm

– promoting of moderate attitudes

– openness to new ideas

The best team size is generally between six and eight active members, depending on the type of setting and the availability of leaders. Also, it is desirable to have both youth and adult members on the community advocate team. We have found as well that having a variety of personality types on a team is beneficial to group functioning because the different types of leaders complement each other in important ways. The selection and recruitment process is unique in every community.

We are not yet totally confident in our own ability to understand how to get the right CAT members involved. Unfortunately, we often find out the selections were wrong only after recruitment is complete. We slap ourselves on the back and take the credit when the recruitment target is met, but the down side is that we find everyone pointing their fingers at us when recruitment fails. (By failed recruitment, we mean a recruitment drive that results in inadequate numbers of families interested in participating in the program.) To be honest, it is likely that the Community Advocate Team itself can best perform the post-mortem for a failed recruitment drive. This makes sense particularly because they are community members. Sometimes the fault lies with the total apathy within the larger community itself, rather than with any fault of the Community Advocate Team or CLFC trainers.

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Question 10: In the standard implementation of CLFC, what is the optimum group size for the training for parents? For youth?

In general, we have found that the optimum group size for parents or youth is from 8 to 15, with a maximum desirable size of no more than 25. We based this number on our experience in implementing community, family, and individual youth trainings in a number of different community types, including churches, schools, community organizations, and corporations.

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Question 11: What training materials are available for those who want to implement Creating Lasting Family Connections®? What other materials (such as implementation handbooks) do you recommend?

The curriculum materials available include a complete CLFC program package, which contains all five training manuals, a set of twenty-five participant notebooks for all five trainings, and five poster sets that accompany the training modules. For more information regarding other supporting materials, call our office at (502) 583-6820.

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Question 12: What if my organization wants to write a grant for funding to implement Creating Lasting Family Connections®? Can COPES assist us in this?

Yes, COPES can often assist in grant writing through the provision of supporting materials, letters of support and commitment to provide training, and through review of other grant sections being included in grant narratives. For assistance call or write COPES, Inc.

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Question 13: What is the average cost for implementing Creating Lasting Family Connections®?

If the organization already has skilled and experienced staff (see question above), then the only cost would be the cost of the curriculum materials (from $1500 to $2,000). However, an organization would typically need to budget at least $750 per week of training needed per trainee, plus travel costs to a training site near them. If an organization or a group of organizations has several people who need trainings, the cost can often be reduced by arranging for COPES’ trainers to provide onsite training.

When an agency requires training (in order to replicate with fidelity), implementation costs can vary dramatically (see below).

The Creating Lasting Family Connections® Program is a science-based, research proven and highly effective substance abuse and violence prevention program for youth and families. It requires skilled and experienced facilitators in order to obtain consistent results. It is difficult to determine the cost of implementation because agencies choose to implement this highly flexible, yet comprehensive program in such a variety of ways. There are six separate modules, 3 for parents and 3 for youth. These modules may be implemented independently, in concert with other modules, or as a whole in a complete and full replication of the Creating Lasting Family Connections® Program which includes all six modules and a Community Mobilization process.

The following information may be helpful in determining implementation costs for your organization.

If the organization has skilled and experienced staff, then the only new cost may be the cost of the curriculum materials (from $1500 to $2000). However, most organizations typically need to budget at least $750 (per staff member needing training) for one week of CLFC Implementation training, plus travel costs to a training site near them. If an organization (or a group of organizations) has several people who need training, the cost can be reduced. (Please call COPES, Inc. to examine a variety of training options.) Further, an agency might want to budget for as few as two part-time facilitators (for a medium to low fidelity replication) or for up to four or more part-time facilitators/trainers (for high fidelity implementation) in order to implement the entire program including mobilization, recruitment, and actual training. For example, let’s say an agency wants to employ 4 part-time employees @ .10 FTE each in an area of the nation that an annual salary of $30,000/year is appropriate. The agency wants to serve 40-50 families per year. Therefore, this agency’s first year costs might include the cost of materials (2 sets at 1,250.00 each = $2,500) + training (4 trainees x $750.00 = $3000.00) + part-time facilitators (4 x .10 FTE x $30,000 = $12,000) for a grand total of $17,500. (Note: Use your local rates for staffing including any cost for benefits and any travel costs.) This example includes, 4 part-time facilitators, and at this time commitment, they could serve 40 families per year, including recruitment and program services (but not evaluation). We’ve seen budgets ranging from as little as $10,000 to $12,000 per year serving 40 families and up to $250,000 serving 100 families per year. If an agency is serious about implementing the program as designed, the typical budget starts around $25,000 and up. Year two and subsequent years costs can drop considerably because training and related travel are not required. (In the future, as we gain evaluation data from these other sites regarding results, and then analyze these results in conjunction with budgetary investments, we hope to gain insight into the most appropriate levels of funding generally needed.)

Please call COPES, Inc. to examine the variety of training options.

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Question 14: What generally is involved in the Creating Lasting Family Connections® implementation training?

Typically, the potential trainers would be taken through an abridged version of all the CLFC training modules to gain an understanding of what it means to be a participant in these trainings. Next, potential trainers would be provided an in-depth training on each of the modules. In this portion of the training, they would be given tips on how best to engage participants in the various modules. Another component of the training of trainers consists of “mock” training exercises, in which participants act as trainers and are subsequently given feedback from the group. Finally, the training includes a community mobilization component which focuses on recruitment and retention planning.

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Question 15: Does completion of the CLFC implementation training qualify a trainer to train others who are interested in implementing the CLFC program in other communities?

The CLFC implementation training is designed to provide the skills necessary for implementing Creating Lasting Family Connections® with youth and families in one’s community. It is not designed to empower people to train others to implement CLFC. That requires both successful implementation of our program and successful completion of our CLFC Master Trainers course. Certified Master Trainers are eligible to receive compensation (travel, per diem, and training fees) from COPES, Inc. for conducting certified implementation trainings.

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Question 16: Your Creating Lasting Family Connections® program appears to go pretty deep. Is this therapy?

Yes, our program goes into each topical area with a fair degree of depth, but it is not the same as therapy. No counseling is involved. The program can and does have a therapeutic effect on some individuals and families. The program is clearly an educational and skill-building program designed to be provided in a group setting. The skills that are taught and practiced in the curriculum are very positive and nurturing practices that certainly impact the individual who learns and uses them. It is not at all surprising that these improvements in one family member (parent) would also impact others in the family.

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Question 17: Do you think most grass-roots facilitators are qualified to become Creating Lasting Family Connections® trainers and take on such a deep and powerful role?

This sounds like two separate but related questions. First, is it appropriate for “regular” people to lead or facilitate this type of family program? And second, can “regular” people really facilitate this program?

Yes, we believe it is very appropriate for “regular” people to make a conscientious effort to assist others who have children to raise them successfully. And we believe that many adults outside the nuclear family can and should provide a positive influence on other community members’ children especially when the children’s parents need and request assistance. Raising children is a deep and powerful responsibility that in most cultures has been shared with others outside of the immediate family for centuries. It’s virtually unavoidable anyway. Simply stated, we believe that those of us who are willing to help others who want and/or need our assistance can learn to improve our methods as we assist them.

Further, we believe that “regular” people are essentially the best suited to become Creating Lasting Family Connections® trainers. By “regular” people we mean that people are not required to have an advanced degree in psychology, counseling, education, or sociology to become a Creating Lasting Family Connections® trainer. On the other hand, to possess such a degree would not be a disadvantage either. The skills promoted in the Creating Lasting Family Connections® program are human skills. We believe anyone who wants to improve his or her skills and is willing to assist others with improving skills can do so. We provide a skill-building training for adults who are interested in implementing this program with others. Anyone who has access to our materials and is comfortable enough with the program to implement it with others can justifiably do so. Many people gain great confidence in their Creating Lasting Family Connections® facilitation skills as a result of receiving our implementation training.

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Question 18: Your training seems very sophisticated. How well does it work with uneducated or economically disadvantaged families?

Our training is comprehensive and systematic so it might be fair to call it sophisticated. We certainly understand your question, too. When we first designed the research model, Creating Lasting Connections®, we intended it for use with high-risk youth and families. We were concerned that it might be overwhelming for some of them, or even turn them off. Yet in our implementation of the program, we did not experience any major negative reactions to its sophistication. There were three reasons that we think we were able to reduce this possible tension. First, people were told to use the workbooks only if they preferred to do so. We told them we recognized that some people hate or struggle to read, while others enjoy it. We showed respect for either choice or preference. The training is designed to be primarily visual and experiential, and they were assured that participants would receive the majority of benefits from our program simply by showing up for the trainings and participating. We were not uptight about people choosing not to read or even accept the participant notebooks or handouts.

Second, the program is designed to support the parent as the decision-maker in the family. We took care to ensure that the program does not preach, judge, or stigmatize in any way people who attend. No one is forcing attendance, homework, or even ideas onto anyone else. We worked hard to develop a local community advocate team to help us create the right atmosphere around the program, and this helped us put people at ease.

Finally, because we were the facilitators in this research study, we already had experience working with families such as these and we were thus very comfortable working with them. The facilitator is the centerpiece of this training once the families have been recruited by the community advocate team. We really believe that if the facilitator is comfortable with his or her role, is familiar with the materials, and is accepting of the participants, then everyone is likely to have a very positive and affirming experience.

We would also like to acknowledge that we have had times when people signed up for the program who apparently had no genuine intention of becoming truly involved. This occurred in the program with the Community Advocate Team. You will find people (of all socioeconomic and educational levels) who appear to be reluctant to say no–even to one of their own community members. They say yes, sign up, and then never show up. This is unfortunate because they would especially benefit from our Getting Real training, which assists people who have difficulty saying no.

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Question 19: How do you make your training culturally relevant for minority populations?

We make a serious attempt to design our program to draw on the “human experience” rather than to focus on any individual experience. Regardless, we recognize that each of us as authors or curriculum developers are still limited by our individual and cultural experiences, even though we may have broad cultural experience. We engineered cultural input from the target population by creating the Community Advocate Team component as part of our Community Mobilization design. The Community Advocate Team is expected to teach, mentor, or otherwise instruct the program facilitators in gaining an understanding of the local cultural issues and to provide a two-way bridge of understanding and acceptance between the participant population and the facilitator(s). This unique design feature has proven to be indispensable because it is so effective in overcoming cultural, social, and related differences between (and among) facilitators and participants.

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Question 20: Violence is a big issue right now. How does your program target violence prevention?

Our Creating Lasting Family Connections® program includes five training modules. Two of these modules have a direct bearing on violence-related factors, and all five send a comprehensive message of acceptance, inclusion, and respect for others. We believe that people who experience large amounts of acceptance, inclusion, and respect likewise experience an increased sense of connection with others and are therefore much less likely to become involved in violent behaviors. The two training components that deal very directly with violence reduction are Raising Resilient Youth and Getting Real. The Raising Resilient Youth training encourages parents to avoid physical or corporal punishment as a primary means of influencing their children’s behavior. Children who typically experience regular physical punishment or abuse are at a greater than normal risk of engaging in aggressive and violent behavior. In the Getting Real curriculum, both youth and parents are encouraged to role-play a variety of pressure situations that might trigger a powerful emotional reaction. Participants are taught the Getting Real response, which incorporates respect, confidence, friendship (if possible), and honesty. These responses move the situation away from conflict and the likelihood of violence. Further, Getting Real teaches both youth and adults how to exit an escalating conflict where resolution appears unlikely. While we did not include any violence measures in our original research design, in subsequent studies we achieved violence related results including a reduction in uncontrolled behavior by youth as a direct outcome. These findings were presented at the National Prevention Network Conference in Columbus Ohio, September, 2000. We are currently working on an article which we hope to publish in the near future.

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Question 21: What are some common problems people encounter when using your program?

There are several pitfalls that we have encountered when implementing this program and that others have experienced too. The biggest potential problem is low recruitment and/or high attrition. It is hard to recruit families for almost any type of event, and this is especially true for an 18- to 20-week program involving both parents and youth.

The list of reasons why our own recruitment efforts have suffered in the past is already long and continuing to grow. The most common problem is poor planning and overly optimistic expectations at the beginning of an implementation. We now often spend up to six months of fairly intensive time and energy in the community mobilization phase. Identifying the right community and the right community leaders to support a recruitment drive is critical. Next, we’ve learned to pay attention to subtle but nevertheless clear indicators that recruitment is not going to go well in a given setting. If community advocate teams are hard to develop, then recruitment is likely to be impossible. Sometimes we target communities not yet ready to receive our message. Discretion may help us avoid wasting a lot of time and effort attempting a recruitment drive when indications are that a community is not ready to support it. It is important to avoid the trap of assuming that because a community is experiencing a drug problem, the community members will really want the program. Sometimes the worse the problem appears in an area, the harder it will be to gain widespread support for a prevention program.

Next, we have sent inappropriately skilled or trained staff out to recruit in communities to which they are poorly suited. While race, gender, and age immediately come to mind, our most serious errors have occurred when our own representatives have not had faith, confidence, or real respect for community members of leaders they were asked to engage. Prevention staff promoting the program must truly believe in themselves, the materials, and target population members’ ability to ultimately care for themselves and their children.

Another real problem occurs when a community group is concerned about the substance abuse problem and really wants to push for the program in their community. We have encountered this problem in a variety of forms over the years. The problem often first shows up as an apparent minor variance in philosophy between community leaders and our program model. Typically these leaders have a subtle anger, resentment, or judgment hidden beneath the surface in their motivation to “help” the community. Notice how above we said that they want to “push” for the program. No one, however, really wants to be pushed into a program. Gentle but clear confrontation whenever even small hints of this type of attitude is expressed by community leaders or community advocate team members helps to avoid problems of this type. We’ve come to the conclusion that if this type of push/pull mentality continues after we’ve confronted it early and often it may be better to move our recruitment efforts elsewhere.

Finally, we’ve encountered some problems with extremely difficult participants. It usually isn’t someone who is consciously trying to cause a problem. Most often it is either someone in a crisis who simply dominates the group discussions and overwhelms the trainer and group with personal needs and questions, or it is someone who is seriously challenged intellectually or who is emotionally disturbed and they are impossible to manage in a group setting. These individuals usually need a more focused effort and benefit from receiving a referral to a more appropriate individual counseling setting. Other participants can be “run off” if the trainer does not intervene early enough and yet the converse is also an issue. Trainers are wise to remain somewhat accepting of individuals who occasionally exhibit mildly inappropriate behavior. We have found it helpful to acknowledge these behaviors as inappropriate while supporting and accepting the individual involved. If this approach is not adequate to cause some improvement in the participant’s behavior, a private meeting may be required to make the trainer’s expectations very explicit.

Any individuals or groups experiencing any implementation challenges in using our curricula are encouraged to call our office for suggestions and consultation.

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Question 22: Okay, I’m convinced your program is the greatest thing since sliced bread. How can I convince my boss or the other community leaders to purchase and implement your program?

We do not have any magic response to this question. We do, though, have a wealth of experience in helping people who share this need to gain the necessary support of others to get the program started in their organizations. We can offer without charge some very attractive promotional materials that you can use to help educate and persuade the decision-makers in your community. In addition, we are often available for a limited amount of free telephone consultation to assist you in this effort. Please feel free to call our primary author, Ted N. Strader at (502) 583-6820 for assistance in these matters.

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Question 23: What if I have question about your program later?

Please do not hesitate to contact us at

845 Barret Avenue,
Louisville, KY 40204
Tel: 502-583-6820
Email: info@copes.org