Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development, a scientific organization dedicated to evaluating programs designed to promote the well-being of youth, has recently designated Family Foundations as a "Certified Model Program." Family Foundations is an evidence-based program developed by Mark Feinberg, research professor of health and human development at Penn State, to help new parents build strong, loving bonds and teamwork skills as they take on the challenges of raising an infant.
Family Foundations is one of only 19 programs to have received the Blueprints designation and is the only one designed for all couples who are expecting a child or caring for an infant, regardless of the couple’s relationship status. In order to become certified, Family Foundations met or surpassed Blueprints’ rigorous scientific criteria for demonstrating the capacity to change behavior and targeted outcomes.
Once Blueprints certifies a program, it is added to their online registry, which is searched by service providers worldwide as they evaluate which programs they will use.
Family Foundations is a series of four prenatal and four postnatal classes for new parents available in-person or online that focuses on creating supportive co-parenting relationships. The program’s content covers parents’ emotional self-management, conflict management, problem-solving, communication and mutual support strategies.
The program's goal is to promote the development of children’s emotional, physical and social health across the lifespan by enhancing parents’ abilities to support each other and problem-solve disagreements.
"When a parent feels more supported by their partner, they are able to cope better with the frustrations of parenting a young child. They feel less stressed and depressed and more confident in their parenting," Feinberg said. "As a result, a parent’s natural inclination to be a warm, nurturing caregiver is expressed more strongly while the tendency to take out one’s frustrations and resentments on a child through harsh or punitive parenting is reduced."
Research studies of Family Foundations have shown significant intervention effects on the mental health of the parents and the quality of their co-parenting, reduced adverse birth outcomes, reduced family violence, enhanced parenting warmth, and better child self-regulation and social-emotional functioning.
A follow-up study of 6-7-year-old children whose parents were randomly assigned to the Family Foundations classes showed positive outcomes including lower levels of emotional problems and, for boys, lower levels of behavioral problems and aggression.
Further, a follow-up study of children at age 10 found that positive intervention outcomes continued to persist, with better parent and child mental and behavioral health, and more positive family relationships.
“We've found that higher levels of parenting warmth and lower levels of harsh parenting lead to children who are happier, healthier, and better adjusted,” Feinberg concluded.
For a detailed list of research outcomes, visit the Blueprints website.
In addition to the universal version of Family Foundations reviewed by Blueprints, versions of Family Foundations have been developed for high-risk or special needs families. Studies have demonstrated that versions of Family Foundations for teen parents, military families, low-income parents, and parents of children with autism spectrum disorder show promise in promoting positive co-parenting, better parent mental health, positive parenting and child well-being.
Family Foundations has been developed and tested with funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development and with support from Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development and the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center.