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Difficulties with Strengthening Families

Hello CPWI, Tribal, and CBO partners,

I recently had an interaction with a subcontractor providing Strengthening Families for our two CPWI communities, and they shared some of the challenges associated with providing these classes. I was wondering if any of you have experienced similar challenges, and more importantly, what you might have done to overcome them.

  • Childcare: Our provider offers free childcare at SF, but they struggle to find qualified and willing staff to handle this aspect. They report the behaviors of the kids are very difficult to manage, so they need two staff just for this component, and those that are often available are not sufficiently trained in how to handle children appropriately.
  • Overall Staff Size: Our subcontractor tells me an SF class takes seven staff - 2 parent educators, 2 youth instructors, a coordinator, and 2 childcare. This just gets into a logistical challenge with conflicting schedules, other classes, family conflicts, health issues, etc. They often run classes short staffed, and then the quality of instruction suffers.
  • Consistent Attendance: Even when they get some families to show up for the first class, they often peter out by week 2 or 3, often with no explanation as to why. I know that if the classes were truly engaging they would keep showing up, but I am wondering how others have handled consistent attendance in their communities. 

This class is very popular across the state and nation, with many coalitions including it in their plans, so are these problems I mention just as common, or are we an outlier? One suggestion from my subcontractor was switching to a program like Family Matters, which is a mail-and-call program on the EBP list, as a way to increase the reach and efficiency of our parenting efforts. Has anyone made a switch like this in the past, and what prompted it? We are a fairly rural county, so perhaps they have a point.

If anyone has any advice on this, I would greatly appreciate it. 


Isaac Wulff

Lewis County Public Health & Social Services

General Discussion
ljohnson- May 30, 2019 11:23 AM Reply

Hi Isaac! I have been a trained  SF facilitator for roughly 10 years. I have facilitated and coordinated in several communities. I would say the challenges that your contractor is speaking of is true, however it is possible to have a successful program. Some of the things that worked for us in South Whidbey was partnering with other agencies. 

Childcare- We partnered with a local childcare facility (Children's Center) they often had a sub list of childcare providers that did not have full time regular hours, sometimes the people who were working more regularly would interested in making a few extra dollars. We always paid the childcare providers! We paid them well- $12-$15hr depending on age group and ratio. This can come out of the SF budget. As you know it's important to remove barriers for attendance and having good childcare is important- just like food! Our Local ECEAP was also a resource in finding good care providers- We also would use high school students who wanted volunteer hours to be assistants, most of the hs students had gone through the babysitting course our Parks and Rec put on but it wasn't a requirement if adults were present. Even a girlscout troup could come and do a project or coloring or something to help. 

Staff size- Yes it absolutely needs 2 youth and 2 parent faciliators. Childcare depends on the group- The coordination could essentially be a part of the coalition work- Do you have anyone engaged that has experience with coordinating an event? Parent volunteers coordinate events in school all the time or a 4-h leader who sees the benefit of Parent and family education? When you are talking about coordinating- you are looking for space, food resources, and donations, childcare and enrollment. It's no small job but can be managable if you have some partners to help. 

Consistent attendance- People want to ultimately do the right the thing- people will be more engaged in the program if they have the opportunity to build relationship- When I was coordinator I was very involved so I would be the one to build the relationship- I surveyed all the parents on the first class asking them if they preferred a reminder by phone- text or email. I would then contact them each week letting them know some sort of detail- like we are doing a taco bar this week courtesy of the local mexican restraunt so if you like it extra hot bring your own hot sauce! We will have milder food availablle or the kiddos, look forward to seeing you etc. We also were able to offer incentives we aquirred by donation. For every class you attended you would receive a raffle ticket for the prize which was some kind of family engagement thing like a gift certificate to the bowling alley or movie ticket package or somthing they could do as a family. We also offerred little things each class in the same drawing like style- like a free coffee from the local coffee company- we have a local donut shop that makes fresh donuts- Someone from you coalition could ask for donations to support parent and family education and engagement- Many restraunts are willing to do a one night donation for food- You must feed the people!! A discount on food is better then nothing! Plus having food set up by coordinator is much easier to just get something premade from food serving establishment- that way you get around health code issues because it was make in a comercial licensed kitchen. 

Often Churches will donate space and they have childcare providers for the pre-school or Sunday School and they want to see folks doing good things. 

I hope this helps and if you have anymore questions feel free to reach out to me personally! Take care, good luck! Lauri

IsaacWulff- Jun 10, 2019 08:42 AM Reply

Hello Lauri,

Thank you so much for this detailed reply! It's just what I was hoping for. Let's talk more about this during the SCLI next week.