Catholic Charities rolls out new program to reduce stress among Latino youth

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Catholic Charities was chosen as one of five providers around the country to roll out a new youth-development practice intended for academically challenged and at-risk Latino children ages 10 to 14 and their families.

In partnership with the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Network to Eliminate Disparities in Behavioral Health (NNED), Catholic Charities will soon begin implementing the Familia Adelante curriculum with children and families served by our Family Access Center in Hightstown. That center provides family-strengthening and mental health services to a predominantly Latino clientele. SAMHSA and NNED will use lessons learned during curriculum implementation as a framework for national prevention initiatives.

Formerly known as the Hispanic Family Intervention Program, Familia Adelante was initially developed at the National Institute of Mental Health-funded Spanish-speaking Mental Health Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Familia Adelante, which means Family Forward in English, is a 12-week, evidence-based curriculum developed to address cultural barriers and stress related to family and youth development. Studies published by the National Institutes of Health show that it’s effective in improving students’ academic performance and school attendance, reducing substance use and high-risk behaviors, increasing communication among family members, and decreasing acculturative stress.

Areas of focus include: negative peer pressure; school-related, economic and occupational stress; gang prevention; substance use education; parenting; and reduction of risky behaviors in adolescents.

Bridging the cultural gap

Familia Adelante clinicians work to bridge the cultural gap, both between immigrants and their new country and between parents and their children.

“One of the biggest benefits of the program is that it incorporates parents,” said Sully Soto (pictured, right), program supervisor at Family Access Center who will oversee implementation. “I always find that the parents and the children are living two different cultural lives. This program really gets at educating the parents and helping them to understand what their children are going through being raised in a different culture, and getting the parents and children to meet in the middle and successfully navigate their different experiences.”

Such a preventative approach is key to ensuring the long-term stability and success of at-risk youth, said Susan Loughery, associate executive director of Catholic Charities.

“We will work with the whole family unit on prevention and care coordination, engaging the family before they get to the point where they need crisis intervention,” Loughery said.

Catholic Charities staff eventually will train other providers to become certified in the Familia Adelante curriculum and standards, Loughery added.

“I am very excited that the Familia Adelante curriculum will be launched by Catholic Charities of Trenton,” SAMHSA Regional Administrator Dennis O. Romero said. “This is another evidence-based tool in the toolbox to address negative behavioral health outcomes such as substance use, including alcoholism, and risky sexual behaviors that are so prevalent and disproportionally impact our Latino youth.”

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FOR INFORMATION about Familia Adelante or the Family Access Center, contact Program Supervisor Sully Soto at ssoto@cctrenton.org or (609) 630-8822. For information about Catholic Charities, contact Dana DiFilippo, Catholic Charities communications, at ddifilippo@cctrenton.org or (215) 756-6277 (cell).

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