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American Indian Strengthening Families Program

Strengthening Families Program

The American Indian Strengthening Families Program adapts the Strengthening Families Program (SFP) curriculum, adding culturally specific elements matching the outcomes of each session.

"American Indian SFP program curriculum was developed on a CSAP Children of Substance Abusing Parents (COSAPs) grant headed by Dr. Collette Evans at Idaho State University She has a doctoral degree from the University of Utah and studied with Dr. Kumpfer. The cultural modifications of SFP were made and tested at Fort Hall on the Shoshone-Bannock Indian reservation. The program follows the basic format of SFP, but added culturally-specific elements that matched the objectives of the sessions. For instance, the opening was changed to a prayer or smudge by tribal elder to call for the blessings of the Creator on the group. The Family Meetings were changed to Family Talking Circles with a talking stick passed to the speaker to assure only one person speaks at a time. The parent and children's sessions were also conducted as Talking Circles. Flute and drum music was added to the stress management session for the parents and kids as well as the graduations. Stories were changed and new ones added to be more culturally sensitive as was examples of parenting practices. The trainers had to ask parents to share, because individuals are not supposed to stand out or answer questions right away, but it was ok to respond if asked to by name. Recruitment was slow and difficult. Gaining trust by the tribe takes time. Maintaining qualified staff is also a problem in Indian community with people moving to other places."

Retrieved from


Hope Heffernan

(812) 787-1668


According to the Strengthening Families Program (SFP) website (, the general SFP uses a “multi-method and multi-informant assessment strategy . . . for the process and outcome evaluation [that] includes three primary interview instrument batteries measuring: 1) parent, 2) child, 3) therapist/trainer report to improve outcome validity. The process evaluation includes at least two forms: the Family Attendance Form, including the attendance, participation, and homework completion for each session for each participant, and 2) a Group Leader (trainer or therapist) Session Rating for each session that documents any changes that the leaders made in the sessions, their satisfaction with the session, who well the families understood the material, and any suggestions for improvement.”

The site also describes outcomes for the American Indian SFP adaptation:

“Dr. Les Witbeck and June Smith at Iowa State University have also developed an 8-session culturally-specific SFP for Ojibway Indian families in Iowa and Wisconsin on a NIDA grant. The 5 year results (Witbeck & Smith, 2001) of this randomized control design was presented at the Society for Prevention Research annual conference this year. The researchers reported improvements in precursor risk and protective factors, but no significant improvements in substance abuse. The researchers suggest that cutting the SFP sessions from 14 to 8 may have weakened program. They are planning to lengthen the program and return the focus to behavioral skills training. This program developed special materials for their program, including a family board game being marketed by the tribe.” Retrieved from

Tribally adapted
  • Child
  • Family
  • Child perceived as problem by parents
  • Child temperament or behavior
  • Exposure to conflict or violence (family or otherwise)
  • History of child abuse and neglect/Use of corporal punishment
  • Low self esteem
  • Mental health problems
  • Parental temperament
  • Social isolation
  • Substance abuse
  • Attachment to parent(s)
  • Family cohesion
  • Family functioning
  • Involvement in positive activities
  • Parental self-esteem
  • Positive school environment
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Relational skills
  • Self-regulation skills
  • Social and emotional competence
  • Strong parent/Child relationship
  • Access to services
  • Connecting with cultural resources
  • Cultural identity/sense of belonging to cultural group
  • Cultural teachings
  • Ethnic pride/self-esteem
  • Family commitment, safe and healthy relationships
  • Healthy lifestyles/activities
  • Hope/looking forward/optimism
  • Increasing coping skills
  • Physical health/fitness
  • Spiritual values/well-being
  • Support (family, friends, community)/interdependence