RTI International, partners to help strengthen military families through skills-building program

In an effort to help military families, RTI International and the Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute at Iowa State University (PPSI) are evaluating whether a family skills-building program can help strengthen military families in North Carolina, in partnership with the United Service Organizations of North Carolina (USO of NC). 

The purpose of the study is to adapt, implement and evaluate a nationally-recognized family skills-building curriculum, called the Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14 (SFP 10-14), through a delivery system called PROSPER (PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience). The project will evaluate program effects specifically for active duty, National Guard, and reserve families in North Carolina.

"Strong families are critical to the strength and stability of the military force," said Robert Bray, Ph.D., senior research psychologist and co-principal investigator of the project. "Military families face unique challenges from combined demands of civilian and military life.  Children of military service members face risks related to parental deployment and readjustment as well as increased family challenges resulting from deployment-related stressors and parental absence."

Few programs have been scientifically tested and proven to enhance parenting skills, improve family functioning, and decrease youth risk behaviors. However, the SFP 10-14 has been tested extensively with civilian families in the general population, and shown to work. The adapted version of the SFP 10-14 for military families of fifth and sixth graders is expected to prevent risky behaviors in youth, promote positive development, and strengthen families.

The study is funded by a five-year grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and has endorsement from the Department of Defense. Researchers from RTI and PPSI are experts in the delivery model, family programming, and military research. As the lead organization charged with supporting military service men and women in North Carolina, USO of NC will be instrumental in assisting with family recruitment, publicity, and providing logistical support to help ensure that the family program is  implemented successfully.    

"The USO of NC is honored to support RTI and PPSI in their research to find new and effective ways to improve the quality of life for our military families, which will support many of our health and human service programs," the President of the USO of NC, John Falkenbury said. "North Carolina is an ideal location to conduct the study because it is the fourth largest demographic of active duty and reserve components in the country.  Each year, the USO of NC provides over 575,000 programs to Troops located around the state."

The project team plans to enroll 720 families who have a fifth or sixth grader in one of seven North Carolina counties: Craven, Cumberland, Harnett, Mecklenburg, Onslow, Wake, and Wayne.  All families who enroll in the study will participate in phone interviews each year of the project and will receive $40 for each completed annual interview.  Half of the study families will be randomly assigned to receive the seven-week program.  The program groups will be held in local facilities in the selected counties such as USO of NC Centers, libraries, or community centers.  

"We could not achieve our ambitious goals without the support from and partnership with USO of NC," Bray said. "The PROSPER program delivery system and seven-week curriculum have the potential to positively impact family functioning and youth behavioral outcomes among North Carolina military families.  If proven successful, RTI, PPSI, and USO of NC hope to see it become a permanent program offering to North Carolina military families."

Recruitment of families into the study will begin in November and programming will begin in February 2016.  To help support family program implementation, RTI and USO of NC will be recruiting temporary personnel, ideally with a connection to the military, to serve as site coordinators and program facilitators.  If you are interested in learning more about this study or serving in one of these temporary paid positions, please contact Jessica Nelson, RTI Senior Project Manager, at jnelson@rti.org or 919-485-2733, or Kelli Davis, USO of NC Troop and Family Program Director, at kdavis@uso-nc.org or 919-840-3000.

Highlights

  • RTI International and the Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute at Iowa State University are evaluating whether a family skills-building program can help strengthen military families in North Carolina
  • The purpose of the study is to adapt, implement and evaluate a nationally-recognized family skills-building curriculum
  • The study is funded by a five-year grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and has endorsement from the Department of Defense