Society & Culture

The UGA Strong African American Families program now available to wider audience

The UGA Strong African American Families program now available to wider audience

Athens, Ga. – For Terris Thomas participating in the seven-week Strong African American Families program was an opportunity to learn new ways to keep the lines of communication open with her 14-year-old daughter. It was also a way to bond with other families who also were the parents of teens.

“I participated in SAAF through our church so there already were relationships established, but this was a way to be knitted together about parenting and being good parents,” said Thomas, a youth pastor.

SAAF, the result of more than 20 years of study by University of Georgia researchers, uses a strength-based focus designed to enhance communication skills between parents (including grandparents and foster parents) and children and, ultimately, help families work together to ensure their children reach their long-term goals. Ongoing research has demonstrated that children who participate in SAAF are 74 percent less likely to have conduct problems and, for many participants, these results can be long lasting.

The program is now available for purchase, according to Christina Grange, dissemination specialist with the UGA Center for Family Research.

“We have developed a training program that prepares leaders in schools, churches or other organizations to implement SAAF in their own communities,” said Grange. “We provide three days of training for up to 30 individuals, plus a DVD package that contains a variety of information that is useful in SAAF programs.”

“One of the unique things about this program was that while I was meeting with other parents and discussing particular topics, I knew my daughter was getting the same information in meetings with other teens,” said Thomas.

While the program addresses common issues like goal setting, it also discusses issues faced more frequently by African-American families like discrimination and its impact on children’s self-esteem.

“For parents, we discuss how they can strengthen their children’s resistance skills, support their goals and deal with difficult situations,” said Grange. “On the DVDs, we present vignettes of African-American children and parents dealing with a variety of situations. For example, we might show a situation of parents being overly protective of their children. Or, we might show an example of passive parenting to highlight different parenting styles. During sessions, facilitators help parents find a healthy balance as they consider ways to relate to their children.”

During the first hour of each week’s session, the parents and teens meet separately with program coordinators. During the second hour, the families meet together and practice some of the skills they’ve learned.

“We stress that the goal is to give the families more tools in their toolboxes,” said Grange. “If the parents are using positive parenting skills and the children are using their resistance skills there’s less time for the negatives to creep in.”

Thomas said she’s found a number of positive results from participating in SAAF.

“It’s not that we had any major issues before SAAF, but it helped me make sure I’m listening to my daughter and respecting what she has to say,” said Thomas. “We’re also clearer about expectations. We discuss her career goals and what it will take to reach those goals, but we also discuss what we expect of her on a day-to-day basis.”

The SAAF program is available for $5,500, which includes the three days of training for up to 30 people and a CD package of vignettes and other supporting materials. For more information, contact Christina Grange at or 706/425-3005, or see