Published on 04/30/14

UGA Extension celebrates five years of Strong African-American Families

By Cal Powell

The Strong African-American Families project, launched in South Georgia in 2008 by the University of Georgia’s Center for Family Research and UGA Extension, has strengthened families and helped promote positive health outcomes, according to CFR Director Gene Brody.

“Positive parenting not only has a protective effect on risky behaviors, but it also appears to be promoting health among a population that is at risk for diabetes, cancer and stroke,” Brody said Monday at the SAAF program impact meeting in Tifton.

The SAAF project, a joint partnership between the CFR and UGA Extension, was launched five years ago in eight rural Georgia counties with a $3.4 million grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Nearly 500 families from Coffee, Colquitt, Crisp, Mitchell, Sumter, Turner, Tift and Ware counties were recruited to participate in the project, a seven-week, family-centered workshop that has proven to enhance family relationships and help prevent substance abuse among African-American adolescents.

On Monday, three mothers who participated in the program with their children told project organizers that the project had strengthened their families.

“Everything I learned (in the SAAF project) is going to take us further into our future,” said Sabrina Morris, a Tifton resident and single mother who participated in the program with her son.

Project participant Kimberly McKennon credited the program with improving her relationship with her young daughter.

“We communicate better,” McKennon said. “Before, we couldn’t talk. Now, we talk about everything.”

More than 300 youth, ages 11-13, and their guardians participated in the program.

The SAAF project team, which included CFR staffers and Steve Kogan, Ted Futris and Don Bower — all researchers in the Department of Human Development and Family Science in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences — partnered with FACS and 4-H Extension faculty to refine their strategies for engaging African-American families.

Together, they trained community professionals,— SAAF Extension Educators — and reached out to schools, faith-based organizations and other community stakeholders to reach African-American families.

“The program started by engaging schools and faith-based groups,” Futris said. “All this was done so we could develop trust. Ultimately it’s that trust that builds support for a program to be sustainable.”

Greg White, a Tifton native and research assistant with the CFR, was one of the SAAF Extension educators.


He taught courses with parents and their children on topics such as “Handling Peer Pressure,” “Dealing with Temptations for Early Sex,” “Goals for the Future” and “Dealing with Unfair Situations.”

“You ought to see how they interact,” White said. “They’re hugging; they’re laughing; they’re loving. That’s all the feedback I need.”

Monday’s session ended with a discussion of the program’s future. Futris and Kogan will present findings from the five-year project at the Society for Prevention Research annual conference in Washington, D.C., next month.

“We’re exploring ways to continue to sustain the program in these communities as well as exploring ways to offer programs similar to SAAF to a broader audience that are tailored to the unique needs of other families in these communities,” Futris said.

To see a photo gallery of Monday’s event, click here.

Cal Powell is the director of communications for the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

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