Home > Strengthening our skills: Canadian guidelines for youth substance abuse prevention family skills programs.

Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. (2011) Strengthening our skills: Canadian guidelines for youth substance abuse prevention family skills programs. Ottawa: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

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This document (the Family-based Guidelines) provides direction to teams wishing to design their own family skills program, strengthen an existing program or adopt a published program. It is an important resource because it provides a benchmark for family skills programming as well as a framework for planning, implementation and evaluation. The guidelines found in this supplement are evidence-based and represent best practice.

These programs are the focus of the Family-based Guidelines because they have been shown to be effective in a variety of cultural contexts and can potentially reach a broad population. Most of the family factors associated with substance abuse are also linked to other health and social issues—such as mental health problems, violence, criminal behaviour and risky sexual practices—so these programs can have broad effects. Family skills programs are best suited to ‘universal’ and ‘selective’ populations (i.e., primary prevention). They are led by trained prevention facilitators who, rather than focus on individual problems, employ strength-based techniques to encourage personal exploration of shared parenting concerns (e.g., communication, discipline).

This document presents family skills programs as lying within both substance abuse prevention and family support systems in a community. Organizations or facilitators may come to the Family-based Guidelines through various routes; however, they are primarily intended for prevention resource persons (i.e., individuals with a mandate and expertise to conduct community and school prevention activities) working with a team that has an interest in providing health promotion and prevention support to families.

The Family-based Guidelines is made up of four sections: Section One: Context for the Guidelines discusses factors affecting family well-being and youth substance abuse; presents a definition, description and theoretic underpinnings of family skills programs; and summarizes the benefits and challenges of implementing these programs. Section Two: Guidelines presents the nine guidelines for family skills programs, accompanied by an explanation of each. Section Three: Suggested Outline of Content for Family Skills Programs presents a content framework proposed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in its Guide to Implementing Family Skills Training Programmes for Drug Abuse Prevention (2009). Section Four: Appendices includes the methodology, references and bibliography.

The nine guidelines for family skills programs are:
1. Build cultural competence into the program.
2. Clarify needs, resources, targets and aims.
3. Identify theory to guide design, implementation and evaluation.
4. Establish a solid organizational and community context for the program.
5. Pay attention to facilitator selection, training and support.
6. Ensure active recruitment of participants.
7. Implement evidence-based programming with fidelity.
8. Take steps to retain participants.
9. Monitor, evaluate and revise the program accordingly.

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