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The Strengthening Families Programme: Prevention of drug use, HIV/AIDS and crime amongst youth through family skills training programmes in low- and middle-income countries

... This programme is being impemented by the UNODC based on scientific evidence that spoke to the effectiveness of targeting families and adolescents to prevent drug abuse, crime and other risk behaviours in youth.  It was initiated in Panama with the aim of contributing to the ongoing efforts in the fields of drug prevention, HIV/AIDS, and delinquency amongst the juvenile population through the participation of the family as a unit in prevention programmes.

"Strengthening Families Programme" is directed at parents with children between the ages of 10 and 14. The programme consists of a curriculum of skills development for parents, adolescents and the family as a whole, disseminated in seven sessions which employ the use of video, analysis workshops, educational games and family activities.

The programme was designed by the University of Iowa, adapted for Latin America by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and implemented under the stewardship of UNODC ROPAN to ensure that the project produces results by building the capacity of local institutions to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate family skills training programmes. To date, "Strong Families" has been implemented in Panama and Honduras. UNODC ROPAN is also keen on developing the programme in Nicaragua and is actively pursuing its introduction into the country.

Special attention has also been paid to strengthening the capacities of both governmental and non-governmental organizations to allow for increased longevity of family oriented prevention programmes such as the Strengthening Families Programme.

The Strengthening Families Programme in Panama

Panama was the first country in Central America to adopt this programme. It was introduced in 2010 with the training of 40 facilitators that would develop the programme in various communities. In 2011, a "training of trainers" workshop was carried out to allow for the certification of some facilitators as trainers, which now execute the programme on a national level with close assistance from UNODC ROPAN.

Further workshops for the training of facilitators were conducted for the benefit of the National Secretariat for Children, Adolescence and Families (SENNIAF according to its acronym in Spanish). This was done in an effort to further consolidate the programme in Panama and to allow for its institutionalization and sustainability.

During the first phase of the Programme, conducted during September - November 2010, families in the communities of Mañanitas, San Miguelito, Paitilla, Panama Viejo and Arraiján, all of which are situated in the Province of Panama were targeted by "Strengthening Families". The second phase was carried out from February through September in 2011 and in this phase families from Chiriquí, Mañanitas, San Miguelito, East Panama, City of David and the City of Colón were incorporated into the programme.

Systemization of the entire pilot experience for future development in other communities is currently being carried out.

To date in Panama, over 50 professionals have been trained and the programme has been implemented in 10 communities with excellent results. These results have been validated even further by the wide satisfaction expressed by families which have participated in the programme and given testimony as to the improvement of familial relations as a result of having participated in the programme.


The Strengthening Families Programme in Honduras

UNODC ROPAN facilitated a family orientation workshop in Honduras in October 2011. This workshop was held in conjunction with the Executive Secretary for the National Commission against Drug Trafficking in Honduras.

Officials of the National Prevention, Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration of Honduras, which falls under the Presidency of the Republic of Honduras, selected the Strengthening Families Programme to become an integral element in determining the objectives of their mission with parents. UNODC ROPAN subsequently assisted in the introductory training workshop  for future facilitators of the Strengtheing Families Programme, which was led by the National Programme for Prevention, Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration of Honduras. UNODC ROPAN is currently negotiating a partnership agreement with the National Council against Drug Trafficking for further development of Strengthening Families in other provinces of Honduras.

An introductory training workshop was delivered in March 2012, and 32 professionals, amongst them psychologists, teachers, social workers, journalists, social communicators and even economists who had a keen interest in the programme, participated.

UNODC ROPAN and the Executive Secretariat of the National Council against Drug Trafficking pay close attention to the follow-up plans and actions developed and implemented by various institutions in various workshops.

To date, the programme is being carried our in six communities in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro and Ceiba.