Multicultural Family Strengthening to Improve Learning and Development

Multicultural Family Strengthening to Improve Learning and Development

CMHS’s Multicultural Family Strengthening to Improve Learning and Development Program focuses on effective interventions for low-income immigrant and refugee families who reside in the Washington, D.C.-Northern Virginia metropolitan area.
According to research, infants and young children are most at risk for abuse and neglect. At this age, it is critical to address parenting skills and family environment so that children can grow and develop in a healthy way. This program focuses on teaching parenting skills and addressing domestic violence among parents with children 0-6 years old.

For school-age children, the program focuses on group therapy and a new group therapy modality. These groups teach communication, problem-solving, and conflict resolution skills to children ages 6-12 and 12-18; their parents attend groups that teach the same skills on the same night.

Outcomes anticipated for these groups include improved academic and social functioning, for example, higher grades and more responsible decision-making. These services aim to remove obstacles that prevent children from learning effectively and developing their full potential.

This project focuses specifically on limited-English-speaking families in which family conflict, including violence, has already occurred or is likely to occur. This is one of the few fully state-certified batterers intervention programs that targets non-English-speaking batterers. This program is unique in that it takes a family approach, and contacts the spouses and victims of batterers to offer support and therapy to them and to their children.

Children who are not performing well in school or have gotten into trouble with the law will receive services aimed at strengthening families and directly addressing their academic and behavioral problems.

Intensity and Duration
Parenting groups, batterer’s groups, and the Victim’s Support Group meet weekly for 18 weeks, as does the group for children 6-12. The pre-teen group meets weekly for 12 weeks. Individual therapy sessions continue for 12 weeks, usually weekly, as needed.


Administering Organization:
Center for Multicultural Human Services

Program Objectives:
The Multicultural Family Strengthening to Improve Learning and Development Program provides culturally competent care to about 125 cultural and linguistic minority children and their families per year who face barriers to learning and development due to domestic violence.

Resource Materials:
The program uses outreach materials and other original materials developed by staff for testing, presentations, and training.

Groups Served by Program:
The Multicultural Family Strengthening to Improve Learning and Development Program serves about 125 parents and children annually, most with limited English language skills, in families who are highly vulnerable to, or engaged in, domestic violence. Most families are refugees or immigrants who arrived in the United States within the last ten years. The approximate ethnic breakdown of children served in recent years is 80 percent Spanish-speaking, 10 percent South Asian, 5 percent Middle Eastern, and 5 percent African. Intakes conducted of these children indicate an overwhelming majority suffer from depression or anxiety. Approximately half the children are referred from Child Protective Services or the courts due to circumstances involving child abuse or neglect. The other half are referred by other agencies, including Head Start, the Department of Social Services, local police departments and schools, or are self-referred, for domestic violence or other family conflicts.

Program Funding:
Funding sources include the Freddie Mac Foundation and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Program Staffing and Training:
Program director and six mental health professionals. Training: Ph.D., M.A., or MSW

Program Evaluation:
Multicultural Family Strengthening to Improve Learning and Development defines its success by the number of at-risk families who gain access to services, participate in the various programs offered, and demonstrate improved functioning in areas ranging from safety to social and academic functioning, as measured by program staff using standardized and CMHS-created pre and post tests of knowledge, attitudes, and practice; functional assessments; and psychological tests. Reports by parents about children's behavior, and grades from school, are also considered.

Program Outcomes:
This program has been very successful and has met all targets. Specifically, more than 100 at-risk parents have received access to services, and more than 85 have participated in programs, the overwhelming majority of whom have demonstrated improved parenting and interpersonal communication skills. This represents approximately 144 children benefiting from the program.

Program Contact:
Dr. Marion Chew Program Director (703) 533-3302

Program Dates:
This program began in 2002, and is still operating.

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