Parents are the first line of defense in successful efforts to prevent youth substance abuse. Research indicates that young people who reported strong ties with their parents and families were significantly less likely to engage in risky behavior, including substance abuse (JAMA 1997).

Planning prevention programming that recognizes parents' important role in decisions made by young people will strengthen not only youth resistance to substance abuse, but will strengthen families and the community.

There are three basic types of parent training programs:
  1. Parent Support
  2. Parent Education
  3. Parenting Enhancement and Skill-Building
Following are some examples of parent training and skill building programs which are available to parent action groups for use both within their own memberships and for use as outreach to the community. Most of these programs have copies of the curriculum and packets available to groups for a preview period at no cost and many offer periodic trainings for trainers for those wishing to offer trainings in their communities. Although this is an overview of many of the parenting enhancement and skill building programs available, it is not intended to be a complete listing.
Active Parenting of Teens for parents of preteens and teens
Active Parenting Today for parents of children ages 2 to 12
1,2,3,4 Parents! for parents of children ages 1 to 4

Active Parenting Publishers
810 Franklin Court, Suite B
Marietta, Georgia 30067
Phone: 1-800-825-0060
Fax: (770) 429-0034
Web site:
The mission of Active Parenting is to improve the lives of families by providing innovative video and discussion programs to organizations so they may help parents and their children. Produced in 1983, Active Parenting was the first video-based parenting program in existence. Active Parenting of Teens and Active Parenting Today are designed as six, two-hour sessions and 1,2,3,4 Parents! is designed as three, one and one-half hours sessions. These programs include videotapes, discussion guides, Leader's Guides, Parent's Workbooks and promotional brochures. The programs all deal with issues such as the developmental stages of children and young people and Active Parenting of Teens addresses critical teen problems such as drugs, violence, peer pressure and teen sexuality.
Family And School Together (FAST)
Family Service America
11700 West Lake Park Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53224-3099
Phone: 1-800-221-3726
Fax: (414) 359-1074

The main purpose of FAST is to prevent school failure, enhance family functioning, prevent familial substance abuse and reduce stress. It also addresses the parent-school relationship by helping parents become more actively involved with their child's school.

The core of the program involves eight weekly multifamily meetings usually held in schools, during which positive experiences in family interaction are facilitated by a leadership team. The leadership team has at least four members: a parent partner, a school partner, a community-based substance abuse prevention partner and a community-based mental health partner. Each session features the following key elements:
  1. A shared family meal
  2. Communication games played at a family table
  3. Time for couples
  4. A self-help parent group
  5. One-to-one quality play and
  6. A fixed door prize that each family wins once.
The program attempts to strengthen bonds within families, among families and between families and community. At the end of 8 weeks, families graduate from the program and participate in monthly follow-up meetings, FASTWORKS, for 2 years. The program develops a support network that helps parents learn how to be the primary prevention agents for their own children. FAST collaborates with schools, parents and not-for-profit human service agencies to strengthen the family's internal bonds as well as its bonds with the school and community. The follow-up meetings are run by parent graduate volunteers, with backup from the collaborative leadership team.

Evaluation results after 8 weeks show statistically significant improvements in the child's classroom and home behaviors in family closeness and in parent involvement in school. Social isolation is reduced and long-term evaluation indicates these gains are maintained. FAST is now active in 25 States, Washington, DC and Canada.
Families Can Make A Difference: A Substance Abuse Prevention Program
Child Development and Family Studies
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1269
Phone: (765) 494-2937
Fax: (765) 494-0503
This parent skill enhancement training is designed to help parents develop a better understanding of how they can help children avoid or stop substance abuse. It is based on research indicating the effectiveness of strategies such as building effective communication, setting limits and close family bonding. The program's main components include a video with discussion guide and related exercises. The facilitator's guide contains three presentation formats: Two are intended for delivery to parent groups and one is for community groups. This program was developed at Purdue University in 1992 by V.L. Spurlock and colleagues. Pre- and post-evaluation questionnaires are available at the above address.
Focus on Families
Social Development Research Group
146 North Canal, Suite 211
Seattle, WA 98103
Phone: (206) 685-1997
Fax: (206) 543-4507
The main purpose of Focus on Families is to reduce parents' risk for relapse, cope with relapse incidents, reduce drug use, increase family management skills, reduce child risk factors, increase protective behaviors and decrease the incidence of substance abuse among children.

This program is most appropriate for addicted parents enrolled in methadone treatment and who have had at least 90 days of treatment prior to beginning it. Families participate in a 5-hour family retreat to learn about the curriculum, identify goals and participate in trust-building activities. This is followed by 32 sessions of 90 minutes each, held twice weekly for 16 weeks. Sessions are held in the mornings for parents, with practice sessions in the evening for parents and children together. Topics covered include family goal setting, relapse prevention, communication skills, management skills, family expectations about substance abuse use, teaching skills to children and helping kids succeed at school. Sessions and follow-up home care are provided by master's level therapists.
Los Niņos Bien Educados and Effective Black Parenting Program
Center for the Improvement of Child Caring
11331 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 103
Studio City, CA 91604-0903
Phone: 1-800-325-2422
Los Niņos Bien Educados is based on child-rearing research with Latino families and recommendations of nationally respected Latino educators and mental health specialists. Los Niņos presents a wide range of basic child-rearing skills, along with "dichos" or Latino proverbs, used to make the learning and use of skills compatible with Latino cultural traditions. Parents learn how to praise effectively, to confront, to use family conversations and to employ "time out" procedures. The program is widely used in schools, mental health and social service agencies, churches and hospitals. It addresses school dropout prevention and drug and child abuse. It is taught as a 12-session class for groups of parents, with the last session serving as a graduation celebration. In addition to basic program materials, an audiocassette presentation is available.

The initial field testing of this program in the 1980s was with newly immigrated Latino families and was found to be highly successful. Participating parents reported their relationships with their kindergarten children as being either better or much better, whereas parents who did not attend the classes saw their relationships with their children as being the same or getting worse over a comparable time period. Children's behavior improvements were reported by parents and confirmed by teachers. Los Niņos Bien Educados is now being used nationwide as the centerpiece of parent involvement programs in school districts, as part of dropout prevention projects and as part of community efforts to combat poor outcomes for youth.

Effective Black Parenting Program teaches a set of parenting strategies and child management skills from within an African-American perspective using African proverbs to reinforce ancestral heritage. The Pyramid of Success for Black Children, Modern Black Self-discipline, Pride In Blackness and Chit-Chat Time are examples of culture-based strategies. Parents learn to put child management skills to work in their families to raise proud and confident children.
Positive Indian Parenting
Northwest Indian Child Welfare Institute
Parry Center for Children
3415 S.E. Powell Blvd
Portland, OR 97202
This curriculum is designed to provide a brief, practical culturally-specific training program for Indian Parents. The first goal of the curriculum is to help Indian parents explore the values and attitudes expressed in traditional child-rearing practices and then to apply those values to modern skills in parenting. Since there is no one tradition among Indian people for child rearing, several examples from numerous tribes are used as examples. It is the assertion of this curriculum that parents can develop positive attitudes, values and skills that have their roots in Indian cultural heritage, thereby promoting the growth and well-being of the Indian child through positive parenting.
123 North Third Street, Suite 507
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Phone: (612) 332-7563
Fax: (612) 344-1959
This parenting enhancement training is aimed at parents of newborns to 3-year-olds. It uses peer support groups to help strengthen families by reducing the social isolation that can lead to child abuse and neglect. Various program activities are undertaken to increase parents' knowledge of child development; to increase parents' ability to solve problems, make decisions and manage family life and to nurture parents' personal growth. Support peer groups meet weekly or twice a month for a period of 2 years. Groups are facilitated by community volunteers who are carefully recruited, trained and supervised by a local certified MELD professional.

A MELD Young Moms program was studied at seven sites and found to have resulted in a positive and significant shift in attitudes and beliefs about parenting and nurturing children. Some outcomes included more appropriate expectations in line with the child's abilities; increased awareness of the child's needs and better response to those needs.
Nurturing Parenting Program
3160 Pinebrook Road
Park City, UT 84098
Phone: (801) 649-9599
This program is aimed at families with children ages 0 through 19. Its purpose is to build nurturing skills as an alternative to abusive parenting attitudes and practices. It is based on a re-parenting philosophy. It seeks to stop the generational cycle of child abuse, reduce juvenile delinquency and alcohol abuse and reduce teen pregnancy. Parents and children attend separate groups engaging in cognitive and affective activities that build self-awareness, self-esteem and empathy. They learn alternatives to yelling and hitting as well as enhanced family communication patterns and expectations that are realistic in terms of the child's stage of development.

This program includes 13 different versions that target specific age groups, cultures and needs. For example, there are special programs for infants, school-aged children, and teens; Hispanics, Southeast Asians and African Americans; and children with special learning needs and families in recovery. Group sessions are held weekly for 2 to 3 hours, and for a period of 12 to 45 weeks. Programs can be held in group sites or delivered in the home setting.
The Parent Connection
Work in America Institute
700 White Plains Road
Scarsdale, New York 10583
Phone: 1-800-787-0707
Fax: (914) 472-9606
Web site:
Established in 1992, The Parent Connection focuses on the importance of the parent/child relationship in its efforts to help children avoid harmful substances. Originally designed for use in the workplace, this program teaches parents how to communicate more effectively with their children about substance abuse.

The program is a communications program which facilitates discussion of substance issues parent to parent. This sharing process involves role-playing games and "what would you do in this situation?" activities. Busy, working parents learn how to find time to talk with their young people about substance abuse and related topics. To help parents feel more confident in discussions with their children, they are taught the street names of drugs and their effects on young growing bodies.

Designed for 10 sessions, the full curriculum is available in English and Spanish and reaches parents of children ages 5 through 9 and of youth ages 10 through 15. Also included is a complete marketing plan so facilitators can recruit parent participants.
The Parent Project
Northern Illinois Council on Alcoholism
and Substance Abuse (NICASA)
3179 N. Fish Lake Road
Round Lake, IL 60073
Phone: (847) 546-6450
Fax: (847) 546-6760
The main purpose of this training is to establish networks for working parents, improve paren/child relationships; help balance work and family life; improve corporate climate for workers; improve parents' skills in preventing substance abuse and other problems that occur in teen years. It is most appropriate for working parents of children ages birth through 18.

The program is presented at work sites during the lunch hour. It addresses common issues such as balancing work and family, communication, discipline, learning styles, sibling relationships, sex role conditioning, substance abuse and other issues. It also focuses on specific developmental issues: child care, tantrums, sleeping and eating patterns, communicating with school personnel, peer pressure and establishing family policies regarding substance use. School performance, male/female relationships and increasing levels of responsibilities as children grow older are also addressed.

A study showed that some parents reported significant and lasting changes in their child's behavior and rated children's behavior more positively. Their parenting practices changed positively and punitiveness declined. Parental stress and depression were reduced. Increases in substance abuse knowledge and negative attitudes toward drug use were noted.
Parent to Parent, Parenting for Safe and Drug-Free Youth
The Passage Group (formerly PRIDE Parent Training)
1240 Johnson Ferry Place, Suite F10
Marietta, GA 30068
Phone: 1-800-487-7743
Fax: (770) 565-4749
The purpose of this parenting skills enhancement training program is to empower parents to counter influences of drug culture in the lives of their young people. It is aimed at parents of children of all ages.

Parent to Parent offers a unique approach in helping parents deal with the difficult issues facing today's families. It is not a program that attempts to preach to parents about how to raise their children, nor does it attempt to impose its own standards or values upon parents. Instead, it is an interesting and dynamic video-based workshop designed to bring parents together for the purpose of helping their children through the challenging passage into adulthood. The Parent to Parent program is contained in 8 video sessions dealing with:
  • The Me Within
  • Put Yourself In The Way
  • Awareness Is Your Best Friend
  • Remember The Difference
  • Expect and Inspect
  • Never Cry Alone
  • Take Time For Yourself
  • When All Else Fails
This program is designed to challenge the thinking of the participants. Each session is conducted by a local facilitator who uses the video modules to convey information regarding issues such as alcohol and drug use, character development, communication skill and more. The real power of Parent to Parent is in the exercises and discussions which follow each of the video modules. It is during this time the parents begin to internalize the information and develop a plan of action that fits the needs of their own families.
Preparing for the Drug-Free Years (PDFY)
Channing Bete Company
One Community Place
South Deerfield, MA 01373-0200
Phone: 1-877-896-8532
Fax: 1-800-499-6464
This program is aimed at parents of children in grades 4 through 9 that wish to reduce risks of drug abuse and other behavioral problems. PDFY is designed for use before children begin experimenting with drugs. Its focus is on family relations, family management practices and family conflict resolution. Parents acquire the skills to reduce children's risk factors for drug abuse. They also learn the principles of social development strategies to strengthen family bonding.

PDFY features two volunteer workshop leaders, one of whom is a parent, who deliver the program in five 2-hour sessions or ten 1-hour sessions. Parents learn to increase children's opportunities for family involvement, teach needed skills and provide reinforcement and consequences for behavior. Discussion topics include: the nature of the problem, reducing risks by strengthening family bonds, conduct of family meetings, fostering of communication, establishing a family position on drugs, reinforcing refusal skills, anger management and creating a parent support network.
Strengthening Families Program (SFP)
Department of Health Promotion and Education
University of Utah
300 S. 1850 E, Room 215
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0920
Phone: (801) 581-8498
Fax: (801) 581-5872
Web site:
The Strengthening Families Program (SFP) was developed in response to a request from drug-abusing parents at a methadone maintenance clinic to help them improve their parenting skills. Since its initial inception in 1983 as a program for mostly white, middle class parents, SFP has been made culturally sensitive for:
  • Rural and urban African-American families
  • Asian/Pacific Islander families
  • Hispanic families, and
  • Low socio-economic status families, regardless of race or ethnicity.
SFP provides 13 weekly meetings of 2 to 3 hours in length. Three separate courses are offered: Parent Training, Children's Skills Training and Family Life Skills Training. Parents learn how to gain the child's attention and reinforce positive behavior; they also acquire skill in communication, substance use education, problem solving, setting boundaries and maintenance. Kids learn communication, understanding feelings, social skills, problem solving, resisting peer pressure, substance use issues and rule compliance. Families jointly practice therapeutic child play and conduct weekly meetings to address issues and plan activities. Incentives to participation include transportation, child care and family meals.
Strengthening Multi-Ethnic Families and Communities
1220 S. Sierra Bonita Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90019-2552
Phone: (213) 936-0343
Fax: (213) 936-7130
The main purpose of this program is to reduce drug/alcohol use, teen suicide, juvenile delinquency, gang involvement, child abuse and domestic violence and is aimed at parents of children ages 3 through 18. It integrates various proven prevention/intervention strategies that reduce violence against self, the family and the community. Its short-term objectives are to increase the parents' sense of competence; the positive interactions and relationships among the family, the parents and the children; the child's self-esteem, self-discipline and social competency; and the involvement of parents in community activities. Parent training classes are held in churches, schools, community agencies and other locations. The program includes 12 3-hour sessions taught in consecutive weeks. Materials are available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Korean. A Russian translation is in progress.
Listings for recommended resource publications for educating parents are found in Bibliography sections entitled "Coalition Building/Community Involvement" and "Recommended Reading for Parents, Grandparents and Other Caregivers" in the back of this guide.

Choosing a Parenting Enhancement and Skill Building Training Program

Choosing a culturally and ethnically appropriate parenting program when there are so many programs available may seem a daunting thing. However, the key to determining which program is the best fit for a particular parent group is a fairly straightforward process:
Step One: Obtain review copies of potential parent training programs.
It is difficult to select a parenting program without actually having an opportunity to examine and discuss the program with the whole parent group. Most parent training publishers are aware of this and will send a sample curriculum to a group for review with the stipulation that it is to be returned within an agreed-upon length of time.
Step Two: Review potential parent training curricula.
Once curriculum review kits have been received, the group should meet to look them over and discuss them. Using the following checklist of the Key Elements of Effective Parenting Programs, evaluate each of the curriculum review kits. It will be helpful for each person to have a copy of the check list for reference as they go through the process.
The following checklist may be used to identify strengths and weaknesses and determine where adjustments may need to be made in any prevention program under consideration.

Key Elements of Effective Parenting Programs Checklist

  1. Knowledge of the target population (the people intended to receive the program)
    • Has the target population been defined by age, gender, socio-economic status and cultural characteristics?
    • Have cultural characteristics of the target population been considered, including traditions and customs?
    • Have patterns of substance use been examined?
    • Are mechanisms in place to monitor the continued appropriateness of the strategy for the target population over time?
    If the answer to these questions is "no," the group risks choosing inappropriate strategies, resistance from the community and lack of support or engagement in the effort. For example, a parenting program targeted to inner-city parents will not be appropriate for rural parents.

  2. Clarity and realism of expected results (Focus on specific, realistic goals; consider the goals in the context of the larger prevention goals of the community.)
    • Has the potential "reach" of the effort been considered?
    • Has the potential "strength" of the effort been considered?
    • Have specific goals of the effort been defined?
    • Have general prevention goals been defined and are goals of the effort coordinated with them?
    • If it is clear the goals cannot be achieved, has the effort been re-examined?
    If the answer to any of these questions is "no," the effort risks a loss of focus, or promising more than can be attained.

  3. Corroborative empirical evidence of potential effectiveness (When available, gather and use reliable empirical evidence of effectiveness from comparable programs to select and guide the current effort.)
    • Have previous experiences with this type of effort been identified?
    • Has evaluation evidence of effectiveness been identified?
    • Has the methodological soundness of previous evaluations been assessed?
    If the answer to any of these questions is "no," the effort risks making unnecessary mistakes by not learning from experiences of others.

  4. Conceptual soundness (Use a logical conceptual framework to connect the prevention effort with its intended results and the overall goal of reducing substance abuse. Base the conceptual framework used to explain the prevention effort on what is already known; refine or revise the framework as needed to reflect new learning from public health, behavioral sciences or other fields.)
    • Have logical connections between prevention activities and prevention goals been identified?
    • Has support for other well-established theories been examined?
    • Have plans been made to update the effort should new information become available?
    • Has the nature of motivation to use alcohol and drugs been considered?
    If the answer to these questions is "no," the effort risks the inability to effectively address the problem with unintended or unrelated effects.

  5. System integration (Design and implement the prevention effort to build on and support related prevention efforts. Design and implement the prevention effort with consideration for the strains that it may place on different parts of the system.)
    • Have other related prevention efforts in the target area been identified?
    • Has the effort been carried out in coordination with other prevention efforts?
    • Have opportunities to maximize effectiveness by building on other efforts been identified?
    • Have possible system strains caused by the effort been planned for? (e.g., budgetary considerations and adequate personnel).
    • Have ways to avoid or minimize any strains been planned?
    • Have representatives from other parts of the system been included in the planning process?
    If the answers to any of these questions is "no," the effort risks fragmentation of effort, inefficient use of resources, missed opportunities for synergy and unproductive competition.

  6. Appropriate structuring of the effort (Carry out the prevention effort through activities consistent with the availability of personnel, resources and realistic opportunities for implementation. Create opportunities for the exercise of leadership across a broad range of participants.)
    • Has the effort been segmented into manageable components?
    • Are components designed to strengthen each other?
    • Has the planning for the overall effort been centralized and coordinated?
    • Have the budget, staff and activities been decentralized?
    • Have participants been involved as leaders?
    • Have leadership roles been used to broaden participation/investment in the effort?
    If the answers to any of these questions are "no," the effort risks overwhelming too few people with too much work, leading to delays, extra costs and less attention to quality.

  7. Appropriateness of timing, intensity and duration (Time the prevention effort so that implementation coincides with a period of peak community concern or the target population's readiness for the change intended. Design the prevention effort for delivery with sufficient intensity in exposure, breadth and impact to produce its intended results and deliver it over a long enough period of time so the results can be sustained.)
    • Has advantage been taken of transient opportunities and "teachable moments"?
    • Has readiness to address controversial problems or difficult strategies been carefully assessed?
    • Has the intensity of effort been matched to the intensity of the problem?
    • Has the effort been maintained or repeated over a long enough period of time to maintain effectiveness?
    • Have efficient ways been found for applying "booster" interventions?
    If the answers to these questions are "no," the effort risks misdirected effort and failure to realize the full potential of the effort.

  8. Inclusive participation (Include in the prevention effort activities that "grab" and maintain buy-in of key decision-makers and leaders and of those organizations and individuals who directly or indirectly will be responsible for implementing the effort.)
    • Have key decision makers in the target area been identified?
    • Are key decision makers actively involved in planning and executing the effort?
    • Have formal and informal leaders been identified?
    • Have formal and informal leaders been involved in the effort?
    • Where appropriate, have recipients of the prevention strategy been involved in planning and implementation?
    • Have cultural issues been considered in efforts to foster inclusive participation?
    If the answers to these questions is "no," the effort risks lack of interest and support from key persons and organizations.

  9. Attention to quality of delivery (Design and implement the prevention effort for the highest possible quality in each step of its execution.)
    • Has each implementation feature been planned and executed for highest quality?
    • Has attention been paid to management issues?
    • Has attention been paid to staff qualifications and characteristics?
    • Has the effort been changed as needed to respond to events and opportunities?
    If answers to these questions are "no," the effort risks overlooking key details and thus weakening the potential impact of the effort.

  10. Commitment to evaluation and effort refinement (Pay close attention to monitoring as well as to process and outcome evaluation.)
    • Has the effort been planned with monitoring and evaluation in mind?
    • Has outcome evaluation been conducted to measure success of the effort in producing desired results?
    • Has the evaluation been integrated into the effort?
    • Has the effort been continuously monitored?
    • Have careful records been kept and used in assessing the effort?
    • Has information from monitoring and evaluation been used to improve the effort?
    If the answers to these questions are "no," the effort risks missed opportunities for redirecting and improving the effort and for determining its effectiveness.

Step Three: Select the most appropriate parent training program

Step Four: Find funding to support the chosen program

Step Five: Market the program to the target population

Step Six: Implement the training - evaluating the process along the way

Step Seven: Evaluate the training as a learning and continued funding tool.

Planning Prevention Programming

Because of the high level of interest in substance abuse and related issues, many substance abuse-related materials and programs have been generated. Some are going to be more effective than others. Substance abuse prevention is not a "one size fits all" situation in which any set of prevention materials and programs will work as well as any other; it should be a process of careful examination and selection. In the process of selecting prevention programming, it will be helpful to use the list of the 10 Key Elements of good programs found in the segment entitled "Choosing a Parenting Enhancement and Skill Building Training Program." Each potential program should be reviewed using this checklist to assess the potential effectiveness of that program. This process will give a solid base to the activities and programs selected for implementation.

Mobilizing the parent action group to work for change is not always a simple thing to achieve. When people share a sense of community they are motivated and empowered to change problems they face; when people feel an important part of a community, they will be more likely to work for needed changes. It's important that the group continually be involved in activities/projects and that everyone has a role.

Recommended resource materials on strategies to help mobilize communities, see "Resource Materials for Parent Action Groups" in the Bibliography section of this guide.