Evaluating the Family Skills Training Programme in Central Asia

The Family Skills Training Programme (FAST), a UNODC initiative designed to encourage the use of improved parenting techniques in Central Asia, was evaluated in 2011 with resoundingly positive results. It was decided that the programme had led to improvements in multiple facets of child and parent well-being.

A thorough evaluation approach was used in regards to this process, which included monitoring by two third-party individuals including a parent and teacher. The evaluation process also involved site visits by certified FAST trainers during three out of the programme's eight sessions, with the intention of monitoring the effectiveness of the multi-family group approach. These multi-family groups are conducted after school, hosted by a trained and supervised team who represent the cultures of the schools being supported. It is important to note that while 40% of the course followed a set programme, the remaining 60% could be adapted to individual local situations.

The results of this year's evaluation have shown that the weekly FAST programme, as implemented in nine schools including two in Kazakhstan, two in Kyrgyzstan, three in Tajikistan and two in Turkmenistan, had been effectively adapted to each Central Asian Region. It was indicated that the results of the FAST programme in local communities was particularly impressive.

Overall, parents reported that they had developed significantly improved bonds with their child, while having a greater ability to cope with the regular stresses and challenges involved in raising children. The parents also felt supported through the social networks established with other parents whose children attended the same schools. The data has indicated that friendships and reciprocal relationships have begun, which has helped to further strengthen social bonds.

There have also been substantial improvements for children. The results of questionnaires filled out by parents and teachers have shown that children are performing better at school, an outcome which is consistent with the goals of weekly FAST and should be maintained in monthly booster session hosted by the service users. Social support is also important in ensuring that these positive benefits are sustainable.

A combination of the above benefits for parents and their children has led to a situation where children are more resilient and can withstand stress to a greater degree. The FAST training has resulted in a number of statistically significant improvements in the 200 participating children in regards to social skills and academic achievement, while there have been recorded reductions in aggression, hyperactivity, depression, anxiety and peer problems at home and at school. These benefits were identified by FAST trainer interns, who were supervised to train the FAST teams during a second cycle of schools in the UNODC project.

The positive results of the FAST training program are particularly important, because the success of such a project direct supports a UNODC primary initiative. It is one of the organisation's most fundamental concepts that the best way to help children attain good physical, mental and emotional well-being, thereby helping them to avoid future risky activities which may lead to drug abuse or HIV/AIDS, is to ensure that parents receive the education and support that they require. FAST has successfully worked towards this inherent goal in 2011.