The Strengthening Families Program: for Parents and Youth 10-14 Successfully Graduated Six Families This Fall Using a New Virtual Format

In a time when many things have been put on hold, one important program continues to be delivered: The Strengthening Families Program: for Parents and Youth 10-14. During the pandemic it has been impossible to serve our school districts in our typical “in-person” manner, but PROSPER team members Michele George and Caroline Novrocki, along with Iowa State University’s Cathy Hockaday, updated the program to accommodate for a virtual delivery for families all across the state of Pennsylvania. Countless hours were spent reviewing each program lesson to see if adaptations were needed for the virtual format. Most of the activities and projects required little to no change in content.  Each week, the session materials were hand delivered to the families’ homes. For the seven weeks of the program, the 1-hour youth session was held on one evening and the 1-hour parent session was held on another. The youth and parents would come together for an additional hour that second evening after the parent session to work as a family on the activities. Participating in the Strengthening Families Program: for Parents and Youth 10-14 virtually hasn’t affected the program’s goals. Both youth and parents are able to continue building relationships that foster good communication and problem-solving abilities. Increasing protective factors, decreasing negative influences, and preventing adolescent substance use are still the goals of this program, no matter how it is delivered.

This family is discussing their family values for the Family Shield activity during program session 4.
This family is discussing their family values for the Family Shield activity during program session 4.

As Penn State continues to support the practice of social distancing measures, participating in the virtual Strengthening Families Program: for Parents and Youth 10-14 allows for human interaction that most youth and parents may be craving. The lessons are designed to be very interactive and that hasn’t changed in this new virtual format. With the virtual program, both the youth and parents are able to see others, speak to others, and laugh with others. This type of connection has been challenging to find in the year 2020.

This Fall, the program was successfully delivered in the Wyoming Valley West School District in Luzerne County, where six families completed and graduated from the program. Two virtual Winter programs are scheduled to start this January. One program is being offered to families in the Northeastern PA Region, encompassing five school districts covering Lackawanna County, Wayne County and Susquehanna County. The second program is being offered to families across the rest of the state of PA.

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