Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Youth First, Inc.: Family Connections

Youth First’s Family Connections program is intended for families whose teens are rebellious, angry, defiant, threatening to run away, struggling in school, have low self-esteem, and may be using alcohol or other drugs. The program is designed to reduce risk factors, reduce or prevent associated problem behaviors, and boost protective factors in such families.

Specifically, Family Connections works to strengthen personal accountability for teens and their caregivers who are struggling with the consequences of poor choices. The program focuses on improving communication skills within the family and helps participants identify and relinquish emotional barriers to healthier relationships with one another. Teens and parents learn to strategize about ways to make better choices—both individually and as a family. The curriculum includes the following components:

  • Six weekly sessions—five one-hour independent sessions for youth and caregivers and a one-hour session that brings together youth and their caregivers—facilitated by trained personnel (ideally social workers or officers of the court)
  • Additional Youth First programming (e.g., Reconnecting Youth©) or other available community resources, such as individual and family counseling or substance abuse treatment

With funding from SAMHSA’s FY2014 Subcontracts to Build Evaluation Capacity for Evidence-Based Interventions, Youth First, Inc. will enhance the evaluation of Family Connections to increase the ability to measure progress toward specific goals and inform the extent to which this progress is directly attributable to program participation. Youth First, Inc. will incorporate a true experimental design, implementing formal fidelity measures and incorporating existing measures with established psychometric properties. Specific activities will include:

  • Implementing an experimental design
  • Implementing reliable and validated outcome measures
  • Analyzing program outcomes at three times (i.e., pre-, post-, and three-month follow-up)
  • Implementing standardized fidelity measures
  • Increasing capacity for participant screening


Laura Wathen
Program Director
Youth First, Inc.
P.O. Box 3897
Evansville, IN 47737-3897
Phone: (812) 421-8336, ext. 120

Parri O. Black
President and CEO
Youth First, Inc.
P.O. Box 3897
Evansville, IN 47737-3897
Phone: (812) 421-8336, ext. 101