Our commitment to building strong, healthy communities is demonstrated through the services and programs we provide in the Greater Saint John area. One program presently underway is FAMILIES AND SCHOOLS TOGETHER. A description of this program follows. We also offer LEARNING SOLUTIONS for children and adults who are concerned that learning and/or behavioral challenges are preventing success.
FAMILIES AND SCHOOLS TOGETHER (F&ST)
Family Plus/Life Solutions Inc. partners with the community!
F&ST is an innovative and collaborative, prevention and parent involvement program. Families gather and participate in specific, fun, research-based activities designed to strengthen bonds within the family, school and community. Schools, parents and non-profit agencies come together to address and prevent major problems that have had a negative impact on families such as:
- alcohol and other abuse;
- youth crime;
- poor school performance or drop-out.
F&ST was developed in 1988, in Wisconsin USA, to help at-risk preschool and elementary school age children and their families. The program involves eight weekly, multi- family meetings during which positive, interactive experiences are structured and facilitated by a leadership team made up of:
- School Staff;
- Staff of Family Plus/Life Solutions;
- Substance abuse professionals; and
Families graduate from the program and participate in monthly follow-up meetings called F&STWORKS – a powerful leadership and community-based program.
The eight-week program involves key elements such as sharing a meal as a family unit; communication games; children’s peer group; time for couples; quality play; and community building.
The results after only the initial eight weeks show statistically significant improvements in:
- classroom and home behavior of students;
- family closeness; and
- parent involvement in school and community.
Over the coming year Family Plus / Life Solutions will be working with St. Patrick’s and Centennial Schools to provide the F&ST program.
This program is supported by funding from the New Brunswick Children’s Foundation, United Way of Greater Saint John and The Sisters of Charity.
Read more about the F&ST program.
Families and Schools Together: A Community Collaboration
By Melanie Creamer, F&ST Coordinator
Family Plus/Life Solutions
Last year, I was given the opportunity to attend a conference in Toronto highlighting a program that Family Plus had been offering in two of our local schools. The hope was that I might then take on the responsibility of coordinating the program. The program was Families and Schools Together or F&ST and from what I was able to gather, it was a tremendously positive, enabling program for families and schools. The energy and enthusiasm of those individuals who participated in the conference was enough to convince me that this was a program I wanted to be involved with and something that would be of benefit to the community. Decision made, I returned to Saint John to begin preparation for my first F&ST session and to help organize my first F&STWorks, or ongoing follow up event.
The F&ST program is multi-dimensional, in that once families complete the initial eight week program, they then move on to the next component which is the planning and participation in F&STWorks. It is here that one of the major goals of the program becomes vividly evident: the empowerment and enabling of families. From what I understand, previous to the F&ST program being introduced to Saint John the Baptist-King Edward school, in the south end of Saint John, parents had little to no involvement with the school their children attended and the community in which their families lived. F&ST gives parents an opportunity to not only meet some of the teachers on a weekly basis, but to share a meal with them, the principal and their neighbours. Families come together and community spirit is created. This coming together of families and the links to community is clearly evident with each F&STWorks activity.
The first F&STWorks I attended was a community BBQ that was organized by the F&ST team and the F&ST families. This was my first introduction to the program and the families involved and it was a humbling experience. Walking into the church hall, there were over 60 individuals in attendance to share a meal and to participate in some family activities. One need only take a short walk though the south end to understand the magnitude of such a program. 60 individuals who had previously not known each other, now sharing a meal and working together to make their community a more positive, enjoyable place to live! These monthly gatherings have continued over the year and have included such activities as: Family Bowling, Pizza parties, Halloween and Christmas parties, Family movie night and the latest, a Fear Factor Spring Fling with sardines and slimy gummy worms (yuk!) These activities are vital to the families and in particular the parents who have become more active and vocal in the activities they want organized for their families.
The outcomes of the F&ST program for Saint John the Baptist-King Edward school are too many to recount, however one of the more active and promising results is that past parent graduates of the program have created their own parent group in the school. They have begun to organize guest speakers, raise money for activities in the school and above all, are there as sounding boards for each other when life gets difficult.
As they will say themselves, before the F&ST program, they did not feel connected to the community, they did very little to get involved with the school or to get to know their neighbours. They now feel connected, supported and able to contribute not only to their family but to the school, their neighbourhood and the community.
This program has been a very rewarding experience for me, as I have watched families connect with each other and begin to work together. Their success is fuel to motivate and inspire anyone to take a more active role in their own community.