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Programs that Work

Creating Lasting Family Connections


Program Info
Program Overview
Program Participants
Evaluation Methods
Key Evaluation Findings
Probable Implementers
Funding
Implementation Detail
Issues to Consider
Example Sites
Contact Information
Available Resources
Bibliography
Last Reviewed

 

Program Info

Outcome Areas
Healthy and Safe Children

Indicators
Youths not using alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs

Topic Areas

     Age of Child
       Middle Childhood (9-12)
       Adolescence (13-18)
     Type of Setting
       Elementary School
       Middle School
       High School
       Community-Based Service Provider
       Health Care Provider
     Type of Service
       Family Support
       Health Education
       Parent Education
       Youth Development
     Type of Outcome Addressed
       Behavior Problems
       Physical Health
       Substance Use and Dependence

Evidence Level  (What does this mean?)
Promising

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Program Overview

Creating Lasting Family Connections is a family-based program developed by the Council on Prevention and Education: Substances, Inc. (COPES) that attempts to reduce alcohol and other drug use among teenagers by increasing family resiliency and community connections. The program was first evaluated as a research project in 1988 under the title Creating Lasting Connections. Initially, as evaluated, parents of teenagers attended 42 to 56 hours of classes and the teenagers attended 14 to 20 hours of classes, spread out over a six- to seven-month period. Parents’ classes, divided into three modules, included training on substance abuse knowledge and issues, family management skills, and communication techniques. Teenagers joined their parents for the communication techniques module. Follow-up care was also provided for one year (up to six months after the end of training) through bimonthly telephone consultations and/or home visits. The program also attempted to increase community strength by involving community members in program implementation and participant recruitment.

Based on the results of the evaluation, the program was modified after 1993 and now offers more hours of instruction during a shorter time period. Teenagers and their parents each are engaged in training that lasts two and a half hours a night for 15- to 18 weeks.

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Program Participants

Program participants were high-risk teenagers age 12 to 14 and their parents. Teenagers were considered high risk if they demonstrated certain characteristics associated with high alcohol or other drug use. For the demonstration project studied in the evaluation, six church groups across five sites in the greater Louisville, Kentucky, area were recruited to implement the program. Churches were chosen based on their interest in the project, the numbers of connected at-risk families, the extent to which social services and programs were already offered, and whether church members had any experience administering social service programs. The chosen churches were located in urban, suburban, and rural locations.

In most cases, churches recruited participants from their membership, but in one case, a church tried unsuccessfully to recruit from a nearby housing development. Four of the five sites that implemented the program had congregations that were predominantly white and the fifth site (a partnership between two churches of different denominations) had congregations that were predominantly black. Of the families that participated, 16 percent were black and the rest were white, and 30 percent were in low- to medium-income groups and the rest were higher-income.

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Evaluation Methods

In the five-year demonstration project, churches recruited participants who were randomly assigned to either an experimental group or a control group (who received the intervention one year later). Parents and teenagers in both groups filled out questionnaires and participated in interviews at the beginning of the program and one year later. In addition, participants in the experimental group were interviewed immediately after the workshops ended (six to seven months after the start). Many interview and questionnaire items were drawn from standard psychological assessments, including the Personal Experience Inventory. A total of 143 parents and 183 teenagers began the program, and 97 parents (49 from the experimental group and 48 from the control group) and 120 teenagers (59 from the experimental group and 61 from the control group) completed all three waves of interviews. An analysis of the attrition rate found evidence of differences between waves that was corrected for in the final analysis. Evaluation findings compared pre- and post-intervention scores as well as scores between the experimental and control groups.

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Key Evaluation Findings

The evaluation (Johnson et al., 1996) measured both short-term (six to seven months) and long-term (one year) gains. In addition, data were analyzed to find both direct effects and outcomes that occurred depending on another, intervening factor.

Direct effects that were statistically significant included the following:

  • Parents and teenagers made greater use of community services.

  • Parents' skills in communicating with their children improved.

  • Parents involved their children to a greater extent in setting rules relating to alcohol and other drug (AOD) use.

  • In the black church community, parents decreased their alcohol use.

  • Teenagers reported increased levels of bonding with their mothers.
The following additional effects were found:
  • The onset of AOD use was postponed for at least a year as

    • parents increased their AOD knowledge
    • teenagers reported less conflict between them and their parents
    • parents increased their use of punishment for AOD use.

  • In the short term, teenagers reduced their alcohol use as

    • parents increased their AOD knowledge
    • parents decreased their use of cigarettes
    • parents decreased their use of punishment for non-AOD use misconduct.

  • In the short term, teenagers reduced their drug use as

    • teenagers became more involved in setting non-AOD rules
    • family communication increased
    • parents decreased their use of alcohol
    • teenagers reported less family conflict and family pathology.

  • Long-term (one year) reductions in teenagers’ alcohol use were found as

    • parents increased their AOD knowledge
    • parents decreased their use of punishment for non-AOD misconduct
    • parents used more community services when necessary
    • family pathology decreased
    • teenagers increased their communication with their families about AOD use
    • teenagers increased their bonding with their fathers
    • teenagers decreased their rejection of conventional values.

  • Long-term (one year) reductions in teenagers’ other drug use were found as

    • teenagers became more involved in setting non-AOD rules
    • family pathology decreased
    • teenagers increased their communication about AOD use and schoolwork
    • teenagers decreased their rejection of conventional values
    • parents reported an increase in teens' bonding with their fathers.

  • Frequency of teens' alcohol use INCREASED as

    • parents' use of punishment for non-AOD infractions increased;
    • parents reported increased teen bonding with their mothers
There were no direct effects for the following measures:
  • Use of alcohol and other drugs
  • Families' involvement in community activities
  • The extent to which families used or established AOD rules
  • Teenagers' communication with their parents about AOD use and schoolwork
  • Parents' reports of bonding with their children.
The program had an adverse affect on families’ use of non-AOD rules. The researchers suggested that this might have been because of the increased emphasis the program placed on AOD rules, perhaps to the unintended exclusion of non-AOD rules.

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Probable Implementers

All sites included in the evaluation were church groups. Since the evaluation, the program has been replicated in 40 states by groups including recreation centers, criminal justice systems, school systems, and mental health centers.

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Funding

The research demonstration was funded by a five-year federal demonstration grant from the Office for Substance Abuse Prevention (Grant Number 1279), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Other sources of funding include public health departments, foundations, and the government. COPES is available to provide free grant-writing assistance.

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Implementation Detail

Program Design

  • Recruitment of participants relied on already established church communities by having volunteers within each community be responsible for recruitment.

  • Volunteers were provided with abbreviated program workshops before beginning recruitment.

  • Program sites used the formal curriculum developed by COPES.
Curriculum

A formal curriculum for the workshops was used at the evaluated sites and the current curriculum is available through the COPES Web site. The curriculum as evaluated was developed by COPES between 1978 and 1988 and had three modules. The first module for the parents was titled “AOD Issues Training,” and provided information about substance abuse, including its history and its effects on individuals and families. The second module for parents was called “Not My Child”; it discussed parenting and discipline issues, including how to develop and implement expectations and consequences for children. The third module, which was provided to both parents and teenagers, was called “Straight Communications Training.” The module allowed parents and teens to first meet separately with their peer groups in order to use role playing to learn different communication styles. Parents and their children then met together to practice their newly learned skills. In addition, all families received case management and follow-up.

Since the evaluation, the program has been modified, and the curriculum now consists of the following training modules:
  • Developing Positive Parental Influences (for adults)
  • Raising Resilient Youth (for adults)
  • Getting Real (for adults and youth)
  • Developing Independence and Responsibility (for youth)
  • Developing a Positive Response (for youth)
Staffing

Staffing needs, including the proportion of paid staff and volunteers, varied among sites. Staffing for the demonstration sites included paid staff to recruit churches and church volunteers, groups of volunteers to recruit the families, and paid staff to teach the modules and provide follow-up services.

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Issues to Consider

This program received a "promising" rating. The evaluation used experimental and comparison groups and showed several important mediating influences, such as improved parent-child relationships and parental knowledge of AOD, but it did not show that Creating Lasting Connections directly reduced alcohol and drug use among teenagers.

Also, it is not clear whether the results of the Creating Lasting Connections demonstration project can be generalized to the overall population. The program as evaluated was church based only, and the characteristics of teenagers and parents who belong to churches could influence the efficacy of the program. In addition, program participants were relatively homogenous – most were middle class and the only ethnic groups included were Catholic and Protestant whites and blacks. Multiple evaluations of the replication sites are underway to measure how the program works in other communities, and the summary provided here will be updated as new research information becomes available.

Awards Received

Creating Lasting Family Connections has received recognition as a model program from the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, OJJDP, and the International Youth Foundation. It also received recognition from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices, and the United Nations. It was rated "promising" by the U.S. Department of Education and "likely promising" by the Administration for Children and Families' Responsible Fatherhood Initiative.

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Example Sites

The demonstration sites were located in Louisville, Kentucky. Groups from 40 states have since implemented the program.

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Contact Information

For training and other information about the program, contact:
Ted Strader, Executive Director
Council on Prevention and Education: Substances, Inc. (COPES, Inc.)
845 Barrett Avenue
Louisville, KY 40204
Phone: (502) 583-6820
Fax: (502) 583-6832
email: tstrader@sprynet.com
Internet: www.copes.org and click on “Products”

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Available Resources

Curriculum resources, including curriculum guides and participant workbooks are available for purchase at www.copes.org. COPES also provides consultation, including grant-writing assistance, and a master training program.

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Bibliography

Johnson, K., D. Bryand, D. Collins, et al.,  Preventing and Reducing Alcohol and Other Drug Use Among High-Risk Youths by Increasing Family Resilience,  Social Work, Vol. 43, pp. 297-308, 1998. 

Johnson, K., T. Strader, M. Berbaum, et al.,  Reducing Alcohol and Other Drug Use by Strengthening Community, Family, and Youth Resiliency: An Evaluation of the Creating Lasting Connections Program,  Journal of Adolescent Research, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 36-67, 1996. 

Strader, T., D. Collins, T. Noe, and K. Johnson,  Mobilizing Church Communities for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention Through the Use of Volunteer Church Admocate Teams  Journal of Volunteer Administration, Vol. 15, pp. 16-29, 1997. 

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Last Reviewed

August 2009

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