Strengthening Families Programme

What is the Strengthening Families Programme?

The Strengthening Families Programme (SFP 12-16 years) is a 14 –session, evidence based family skills programme developed by Dr. Karol L. Kumpfer and associates at the University of Utah in 1982. The programme was piloted in 2007 in Cork and has been implemented in various parts of Ireland since then. The Strengthening Families Programme is an intervention programme for the “whole family” and has been proven to help build communication skills, address and decrease risk factors in families and promote protective factors.

The programme is designed to give parents and their children the opportunity to learn new, healthy skills that create positive relationships within families. The families attending the programme gain improved family relationships, enhanced parenting and communication skills and skills to manage stress, anger and peer pressure. It has been found that by improving parenting protective factors and family relationships and resilience it will lead to reducing problem behaviour, improve school performance and reduce criminal behaviour and alcohol and drug use in young people.

The programme comprises of three life skills courses taught together over a 14 week period. The three life skills courses include Parent Skills, Teen Skills and Family Skills.

What skills do families learn

Parents Skills Training

Parents learn new skills over the course of the weeks including;

  • Communication Skills
  • Giving Direction
  • Managing Stress
  • Relationships
  • Peer Pressure
  • Substance Use Education
  • Problem Solving
  • Setting Limits

Teen Skills Training

The teenagers group learn to;

  • Communicate Positively
  • Understand Feelings
  • Cope with Criticism
  • Manage Stress
  • Develop Social Skills
  • Problem Solve
  • Resist Peer Pressure
  • Understand the consequences of substance abuse
  • Understand short term consequences and long term goals

How does the programme operate?

Families are referred to the programme and supported to implement the skills by their referral agent (a worker from an agency that the family are engaged with). The family are on site at the venue for approximately 2 1/2 hours each week. There are 3 elements to the programme each week and this includes;

Dinner with Families and the Strengthening Families Programme Team

This encourages positive communication among the family members and with the SFP team. The meal also acts as a catalyst for establishing a routine around dedicated family time.

Parents & Teenagers Skills Session

The parents & teenagers attend separate sessions which are run simultaneously and where they learn & practise a specific skill.

Family Skills Session

The parents and teenagers work together on the skills they have learned in the separate groups.

The families are asked to undertake home practise as part of the programme, where they apply the skills they have learned and implement them in their day to day family routines.

During the course of the programme, families receive incentives to develop their skills, promote family time together and promote engagement with the programme content. A family portrait is also taken of each family to mark their commitment and investment to each other and the skills they have learned. This is presented to families on the final night of the programme as part of a Graduation Ceremony to commend the achievement of the families.

Assisting Families to attend

It is recognised that some families struggle to attend such programmes due to transport or childcare costs. The Cork & Kerry Strengthening Families Programme Steering Committee are committed to supporting families to address these barriers. Please contact the Site Coordinator about support for these issues.

Who is the team that delivers the programme?

A Site Coordinator coordinates the overall implementation of the Strengthening Families Programme. This is a multi-faceted role and includes responsibility for; budgeting, liaising with referral agents and families, leading a team of facilitators, facilitating de-briefs, maintaining attendance records etc.

A 1 day Site Coordinator Workshop and a Site Coordinator Support Pack have been developed to assist individuals undertaking this role.

The facilitators represent local voluntary, statutory and community organisations who believe in the Strengthening Families Programme. The facilitators have a variety of backgrounds and expertise.

Individuals undertaking the role of facilitator must complete a 2 day Strengthening Families Programme Facilitator Training.

A team of approx. 10 individuals is required to deliver the programme.

Cork& Kerry SFP Steering Committee

The Cork & Kerry Strengthening Families Steering Group is comprised of representatives from 9 different agencies across the region. The steering committee’s main concern is making strategic decisions concerning the rollout of the programme across the Cork and Kerry areas. It believes that it is important to deliver a quality intervention to families and promote a high standard in all aspects of the lifecycle of a Strengthening Families Programme.

For further information on the Strengthening Families Programme and upcoming dates of importance, please contact;

Gemma O’ Leary

Cork Local Drug & Alcohol Task Force,
Floor 1,
Kinvara House,
Dublin Hill,

Tel: 021 493 0100 / 087 055 3255



Lorraine O’ Donovan

Le Chéile Mentoring & Youth Justice Support Services
Westview House,
17 Audley Place,
St Patrick’s Hill,

Tel: 086 386 4576