Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

Heritage Multicultural Youth and Family Program, Inc. (HMYFP); Northern Virginia and Metropolitan D.C.

Program Name

Strengthening and Preserving our Families in Transition (SPOFIT)

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

The SPOFIT program works with newcomer families through a 14-16 session group work model led by culturally relevant facilitators.  Program objectives are to:

  • Deliver comprehensive culturally sensitive services to immigrant and refugee families, primarily newly arrived African families;
  • Reduce resettlement stress and offer information and resources to families;
  • Support youth resilience through positive self-identity, healthy acculturation and positive community citizenship;
  • Promote youth success in the global community through connections with international human service projects;
  • Offer a holistic and culturally relevant approach to strengthening and preserving newcomer families in transition.

Program Description

The Strengthening and Preserving our Families in Transition (SPOFIT) program is presented as either 14 or 16 consecutive weekly sessions (16 weeks for more recent arrivals), with each weekly session meeting for approximately two hours.  The SPOFIT curriculum emphasizes awareness of positive family and cultural values, family dynamics, stress-free transition, relationships and communication skills.  Weekly group sessions focus on family and parenting values, family relationships, youth acculturation and life skills development, and communication skills.  The family centered segment focuses on parent and family readiness for change, active parenting, and youth in transition.  Resources accompanying the curriculum are utilized.  Culturally competent professionals serve as group facilitators to lead each session.

The SPOFIT model has been developed out of years of extensive direct service work with the immigrant and refugee population, and through an extensive review of current parenting and family strengthening programs.  This unique model was designed in consultation with families, community leaders and experts in the field.  It is specific to the varied and complex needs of the immigrant and refugee families who are in transition from their particular ethnic traditions to Western cultural communities.  While the program is designed around a 14 to 16 week activity structure, the model is crafted with enough flexibility to be successfully adapted to alternative population groups and locations.  Focusing on the family as a unit, and the youth as an individual at a critical crossroads in life, this program emphasizes a holistic and culturally relevant approach to strengthen and preserve the family in transition.

The group sessions address topics such as the following:

  • Connecting with one another and communicating using caring words
  • Building generational continuity and appreciating culture
  • Building trust, ensuring compassion and developing positive self-identity
  • Constructive expression of anger and stress management
  • Developing problem solving and decision making skills

This model strongly supports both the bicultural and the positive youth development (PYD) concepts, embracing the idea that the development of youth assets is inversely related to participation in risky behaviors.  This model regards the family as a whole entity and seeks to utilize the assets within youth, their families, and communities to promote positive adaptation and change.  The popular Somali proverb “Together the teeth can cut”—meaning “Unity is power”—underscores the notion of family unity as the foundation of family strength promoted through the SPOFIT model.  The program can be used with families and children of any age, but it is particularly suited to families with children age 10 and older.


Program Components

1. Referral & Prescreening – HMYFP receives referral information and conducts screening to determine suitability for the program. 

2. Intake Screening – The focus of this segment is to obtain information specific to the family, allowing the family to tell their story in an environment and language that is most comfortable for them. The family also completes a pre-test and documentation for the program.

3. Program Orientation – The first formal group meeting serves as an ice-breaker to become acquainted, and to develop rapport within the group environment. It covers basic ground rules and expectations, along with relevant local laws and concerns.  Some common resettlement issues are discussed, such as changes in family roles and dynamics, supervision, discipline, and support systems.

4. Skills and Adjustment Training Modules (SATS)

  • The Parent Acculturation and Adjustment Skills Training: Addressing topics such as family structure, child rearing, socio-economic changes, community supports, schools and education.
  • The Youth Acculturation and Adjustment Skills Training: Addressing topics such as identity and acculturation, positive intercultural development, school engagement, peer pressure, interpersonal skills, conflict resolution skills, and career development.
  • The Family Acculturation and Adjustment Skills Training: The family comes together as a unit to practice skills learned from the two separate parent and youth group trainings, along with a facilitated exercise to address cultural barriers in child-rearing practices, to explore resources, and to start developing positive relationships with their new communities.

5. Family Specific Support System Module – This module offers individual, family and group specific supports to address intergenerational, bicultural and family specific issues, systems concerns, and challenges confronting new immigrants in their communities. Specific services include the following.

  • Counseling: Regarding migration issues, post-traumatic stress, anger management, grief and loss, family dynamics, etc.
  • Mentoring: Either peer-to-peer youth mentoring in the school setting; family-to-family mentoring; or adult-to-youth mentoring to develop supportive adult relationships.

6. After Care – Each family completes a post-test and the agency offers referrals to other community agencies. Recommended follow-up visits are conducted with the family at the end of the 1st month, 3rd month, 7th month and one year, after which the case is closed. 

Resource Materials Used in Program

Designated space, office supplies, computers and printers, instructional materials and worksheets, videos, games, resource guides, arts and craft supplies, food, transportation, field trips, guest speakers, cultural arts and craft materials, cultural artifacts.

Groups Served by Program

The primary focus is on African immigrant and refugee populations (largely West Africans along with some East Africans); however, this model can be successfully adapted to diverse population groups and situations globally. It is specific to the varied and complex needs of immigrant and refugee families who have experienced hardships, migration, major losses, trauma and cultural transition.

Program Funding

This program is primarily funded through partnerships and collaborative ventures with other community-based organizations (for example, Howard University-African Studies; University of D.C.-4H program; City of Alexandria Public Schools, VA; Fairfax County public schools, VA; D. C. Public Schools; Chances for Youth, Woodbridge, VA; AMNET - Freetown, Sierra Leone; African community based churches, VA and MD.) The program benefits from individual contributions and in-kind donations. 

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

There is one full-time coordinator/leader, three part-time culturally competent facilitators, one part-time administrative support and two volunteers. Staff facilitators are specially trained and are culturally relevant.

Program Evaluation

An outcome evaluation includes a multi-method measurement procedure, including a pre- and a post-test evaluation, as well as surveys of family members and feedback from partners and collaborators.

Program Outcomes

Additional Comments

This program has successfully undertaken partnerships and collaborative ventures with local and international agencies, schools, churches and universities since 2005.

Program Contact

Alimatu S Mustapha-Palmer, NCC; LPC; SCAC; CCDVC
Director, HMYFP, Inc.
(703) 898-8760

Program Dates

This program began in 2005 and is still operating as of September 2011.