Positive Family Support (PFS) Program

About This Program

Target Population: The parents and families of middle school-age children (Grade 6-Grade 8); the content is not presented directly to children

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 10 – 14

Program Overview

The Positive Family Support (PFS) Program is a school-based intervention program with universal, selected, and individualized components that is designed to build positive home-to-school connections. School personnel are trained in components of PFS and provide training and intervention to parents/families at the school. Parents/Caregivers receive the intervention components in the school setting. PFS promotes a school culture that increases family-school partnerships and positive working relationships between caregivers and schools resulting in improved student outcomes. PFS also raises caregivers’ awareness about school expectations for positive student behavior and engages them in promoting these prosocial behaviors. The design of PFS enhances schools’ current Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) and Response to Intervention (RtI), by adding a family component at each level of support. At the Individualized level, PFS includes an adaptation of the Family Check-Up intervention and Everyday Parenting for implementation in schools. Resources and training are provided for Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 interventions to promote collaborative relationships with families and parental support to achieve common goals of school success.

Program Goals

The goals of Positive Family Support are:

  • Increase family-school partnerships
  • Provide research-based parenting resources to families
  • Decrease antisocial behavior, including substance use and absenteeism
  • Increase academic achievement

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Positive Family Support (PFS) Program.

Essential Components

The essential components of Positive Family Support include:

  • Positive Family Support is a three-tiered intervention model for use in schools:
    • Tier 1 Universal Supports - Resources and strategies are available to all families/caregivers. The purpose of this level of intervention is to develop rapport, increase collaborative family engagement, and create a school environment that is welcoming to families. This level includes the following:
      • Creating a Family Resource Room - Schools create a designated space for families complete with school and parenting resources.
      • Universal Screener for families - Schools distribute the Strengths and Needs Assessment (SaNA) to all families at the beginning of the year in an effort to gain information about students from the home perspective.
      • Positive Family Outreach Activities - The school sponsors events for families to provide positive experiences for them and provide parenting information.
      • Positive Contact with Families - School staff engages in simple ways to provide all families positive feedback about students.
    • Tier 2 Selected Supports - School staff explicitly engages and involves families in creating plans to help support struggling students. Strategies enhance family involvement with existing and new school interventions and programs. This level includes the following:
      • Interventions - Schools collaborate with parents to create and implement specific interventions around the areas of attendance, behavior, and academics.
      • Home-School behavior change plans
      • On-going progress-monitoring and reciprocal communication with families
      • School staff uses strategies to offer caregivers specific and sustained feedback about their student’s attendance, behavior, and completion of school tasks.
    • Tier 3 Individualized Support - For students who continue to demonstrate challenges despite receiving support at Tiers 1 and 2, Positive Family Support uses Individual School-Based Family Check-Up (FCU):
      • School personnel meet individually with parents/caregivers to conduct a School-Based FCU
        • Get to Know You Interview:
          • Explain School-Based FCU process
          • Develop rapport
        • Assessment:
          • Explore strengths, problem areas, and concerns
          • Identify concerns and issues family wants to address in the intervention
          • Feedback:
            • Present parent with feedback that integrates data from all of the content areas that were assessed during the initial interview, the family assessment, and any school information (e.g., grades, attendance)
            • Motivate family to engage in the School-Based FCU process and positive behavior changes
            • Frame concerns into issues of parenting and family management
          • Menu of Options:
            • Positive behavior support strategies
            • Limit-setting and monitoring skills
            • Parent-child relationship-building skills
            • Referring to outside resources
    • School staff are trained in the resources and interventions that are part of the PFS program.
      • At Tier 1, all school staff participates in providing resources to parents/families.
      • At Tier 2, several members of the school’s student support or counseling teams are trained in intervention practices to implement with families/parents to better support struggling students.
      • At Tier 3, a small number of school staff members are trained in the School-Based Family Check-Up and provide this service to families/parents.
      • Throughout each tier, trained school staff uses various PFS resources and strategies to work with parents/caregivers on parenting practices that improve outcome for youth.

Program Delivery

Parent/Caregiver Services

Positive Family Support (PFS) Program directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Difficulty with parenting practices that support positive behavior, communication, and limit setting

Recommended Intensity:

Tier 1 - Parents access information as needed. Tier 2 - Parents are contacted if their students are struggling and, if receptive, are given materials that may help them help their students. Tier 3 – Parents are asked to participate in a school-based Family Check-Up which can be completed in one session lasting approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. There are follow-up services of approximately 30 minutes that are conducted at request of family.

Recommended Duration:

The duration is based on the request of the family.

Delivery Setting

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)


Positive Family Support (PFS) Program includes a homework component:

Parenting skill practice is available but is an optional component (based on family interest).


Positive Family Support (PFS) Program has materials available in a language other than English:


For information on which materials are available in this language, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • Room or designated space for a Family Resource Center in the school
  • Private room to conduct School-Based Family Check-Up
  • Computer or television for viewing of parenting videos
  • Computers for School-Based Family Check-Up Online Assessment (there is a pen/paper version of the assessment and all materials if computers are not available)
  • School personnel designated to conduct School-Based Family Check-Up

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Nonlicensed and licensed staff members are involved in Tier 1 training. Most school personnel who are trained in Tier 2 and Tier 3 hold an educational certificate.

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Program Manual(s)

Positive Family Support: A guide to implementation. Unpublished intervention manual. Available from the REACH Institute, Arizona State University. The PFS manual can be accessed through program contact.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:

Training is provided on-site at the trainee’s organization.

Number of days/hours:

Tier 1 Training (for all school staff): 4 hours

Tier 2 Training (for student support teams): 4 hours

Tier 3 Training (for staff providing Tier 3 intervention): 8 hours

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Dishion, T. J., Kavanagh, K., Schneiger, A., Nelson, S., & Kaufman, N. K. (2002). Preventing early adolescent substance use: A family-centered strategy for the public middle school. Prevention Science, 3(3), 191-201. doi:10.1023/A:1019994500301

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 672 (families)


  • Age — Children: 6th-9th grade (approximately 11-15 years), Parents: Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Children: 41.4% European American, 32.3% African American, 7.3% Hispanic, 5.5% Asian, and 2.2% Native American; Parents: Not specified
  • Gender — Children: 52.2% Male and 47.8% Female; Parents: Not specified
  • Status — Participants were 6th - 9th grade students and their families.

Location/Institution: Three middle schools within an ethnically diverse metropolitan community

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
This study aims to test the efficacy Adolescent Transition Program (ATP) [now called Positive Family Support]. Participants were randomly assigned at the individual level to a control condition or the ATP intervention. Measures utilized include the Teacher Perception of Risk (TRISK) and self-report survey, two questions were asked concerning substance use. Results indicate levels of engagement in the selected and indicated interventions were somewhat less than expected. Despite relatively low levels of engagement, the intervention reduced initiation of substance use in both at-risk and typically developing students. Limitations include reliance on self-reported measures of substance abuse, attrition, and lack of follow-up.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: None.

Smolkowski, K., Seeley, J. R., Gau, J. M., Dishion, T. J., Stormshak, E. A., Moore, K. J., ... Garbacz, S. A. (2017). Effectiveness evaluation of the Positive Family Support intervention: A three-tiered public health delivery model for middle schools. Journal of School Psychology, 62, 103-125. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2017.03.004

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 12,912


  • Age — Youth: Mean=11.9 years, Adults: Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Youth:65% Caucasian, Adults: Not specified
  • Gender — Youth: 51% Female, Adults: Not specified
  • Status — Participants were from schools with a minimum of 50 students in sixth grade that had participated in the positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS).

Location/Institution: 41 middle schools in 27 school districts in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
This article presents the results of an evaluation of Positive Family Support on student-, teacher-, and parent-reported outcomes, as well as math and reading scores and school attendance. Participating schools were part of a cluster randomized controlled trial that randomly allocated 41 Oregon public middle schools to receive the PFS intervention either immediately (n = 21) or after a delay of 3 to 4 years (n = 20). Measures utilized include the Parent Monitoring Scale, the Caretaking and Family Routines Scale, the Family Conflict Scale, the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire, the Problem with Students scale, the Child Peer Social Skills questionnaire, the Secondary School Readiness Inventory, the Teacher Risk Assessment (TRISK), the Caretaking and Routines Scale, the Parent Teacher Involvement Questionnaire-Parent Version, and the PFS Fidelity instrument and the Schoolwide Evaluation Tool. Results suggested that for students at risk for behavior problems, immediate-intervention schools outperformed control schools on parent-reported negative school contacts for students at risk for behavior problems. Limitations include the low score reliabilities on measurements may have reduced the sensitivity to intervention effects, reliance on self-reported measures, high student attrition rate, and lack of follow-up.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Dishion, T. J. (2011). Promoting academic competence and behavioral health in public schools: A strategy of systemic concatenation of empirically based intervention principles [Special Issue]. School Psychology Review, 40(4), 590–597.

Dishion, T. J., Andrews, D. W., Kavanagh, K., & Soberman, L. H. (1996). Preventive interventions for high-risk youth: The Adolescent Transitions Program. In R. D. Peters & R. J. McMahon (Eds.), Preventing childhood disorders, substance abuse, and delinquency (pp. 184–214). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Dishion, T. J., & Stormshak, E. A. (2007). Intervening in children’s lives: An ecological, family-centered approach to mental health care. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Contact Information

Chris Hazen
Title: Chief Operations Officer
Agency/Affiliation: NW Prevention Science
Phone: (415) 685-0023

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: May 2019

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: September 2021

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: August 2019