Families and Schools Together

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Scientifically Supported

Strategies with this rating are most likely to make a difference. These strategies have been tested in many robust studies with consistently positive results.

Health Factors  
Decision Makers
Date last updated

Families and Schools Together (FAST) is a group-based family intervention program for at-risk children. Groups of 9-12 families gather for 8 facilitated 2.5 hour weekly meetings that include a family meal, structured activities, parent support time, and parent-child play therapy. Meetings are facilitated by a trained team of 4 to 8 people, including parents, teachers, school representatives, and community-based workers such as social workers or counselors. FAST teams are representative of the ethnic or cultural background of participating families. Families then run monthly follow-up meetings for 2 years1. The FAST model has been expanded to include Baby FAST, Pre-K FAST, Kids FAST, Middle School FAST, and Teen FAST2.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Improved youth behavior

  • Improved social emotional skills

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Increased school engagement

  • Increased parental self-efficacy

  • Improved social networks

  • Improved family functioning

  • Improved mental health

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is strong evidence that Families and Schools Together (FAST) improves children’s behavior and social skills1, 3. Parents also benefit from the program as family functioning improves4, and parent engagement and connection to the school community increases5.

For participating elementary school children, FAST reduces aggression and problem behaviors directed at others1. The program also helps children improve their social skills and avoid withdrawal, anxiety, and depression1. A Phoenix and San Antonio-based study suggests FAST participation reduces the likelihood that black students attending primarily Hispanic schools switch schools. Switching schools can reduce academic achievement and self-esteem and increase the likelihood of dropping out for children who switch, and slow instruction for all students6.

FAST increases parents’ self-efficacy and confidence in their parenting4, 7. Family relationships function more smoothly and parents feel more supported than non-participating peers4. In some circumstances, FAST parents become more socially connected and more involved with their children’s schools4, 5, 7, 8. Parents report improved communication and more positive interaction following program participation. Parents also report that FAST’s play sessions and family meals are particularly useful3.

FAST programs have notably high retention rates among low income, marginalized families9. FAST participation has had positive effects on child functioning among Native American, African American, and Latino youth1, 9.     

Baby FAST may yield similar improvements to family functioning when directed at teen mothers. One study suggests it increases parents’ self-efficacy, improves parent-child bonds, reduces family stress and conflict, and increases social support10. However, additional evidence is needed to confirm the effects of Baby FAST.

A sample program budget indicates that Kids FAST for elementary school students costs about $14,700 to serve 40 families2.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated likely to decrease disparities.
Implementation Examples

FAST is used in 46 states in urban, inner city, and rural communities, and 12 foreign countries2.

Implementation Resources

FAST - Families and Schools Together Inc (FAST). Protecting hearts and minds.


* Journal subscription may be required for access.

1 YG-FAST - Youth.gov (YG), Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP). Families And Schools Together (FAST).

2 FAST - Families and Schools Together Inc (FAST). Protecting hearts and minds.

3 Knox 2011a - Knox L, Guerra NG, Williams KR, Toro R. Preventing children’s aggression in immigrant Latino families: A mixed methods evaluation of the Families and Schools Together program. American Journal of Community Psychology. 2011;48(1-2):65-76.

4 Crozier 2010 - Crozier M, Rokutani L, Russett JL, Godwin E, Banks GE. A multisite program evaluation of Families and Schools Together (FAST): Continued evidence of a successful multifamily community-based prevention program. School Community Journal. 2010;20(1):187-207.

5 McDonald 2015 - McDonald L, Miller H, Sandler J. A social ecological, relationship-based strategy for parent involvement: Families And Schools Together (FAST). Journal of Children’s Services. 2015;10(3):218-230.

6 Fiel 2013 - Fiel JE, Haskins AR, Turley RNL. Reducing school mobility: A randomized trial of a relationship-building intervention. American Educational Research Journal.2013;50(6):1188-1218.

7 Ackley 2010 - Ackley MK, Cullen PM. Strengthening families through community collaboration: Implementing the Families and Schools Together (FAST) program. Children & Schools. 2010;32(3):183-6.

8 Gamoran 2012 - Gamoran A, Lopez-Turley RN, Turner A, Fish R. Differences between Hispanic and non-Hispanic families in social capital and child development: First-year findings from an experimental study. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. 2012;30(1):97-112.

9 McDonald 2012 - McDonald L, FitzRoy S, Fuchs I, Fooken I, Klasen H. Strategies for high retention rates of low-income families in FAST (Families and Schools Together): An evidence-based parenting programme in the USA, UK, Holland and Germany. European Journal of Developmental Psychology. 2012;9(1):75-88.

10 McDonald 2009a - McDonald L, Conrad T, Fairtlough A, et al. An evaluation of a groupwork intervention for teenage mothers and their families. Child & Family Social Work. 2009;14(1):45-57.