Informed Families, FL Christine Stilwell, Pgm. Director, Center

In 1982, at a time when Nancy Reagan was shining a light on rampant casual drug use, parents concerned about youth drug abuse in Florida set about creating Informed Families of Dade County.  They had attended the National Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth (NFP) in Washington, D.C. and were inspired to help their county. They saw strength in numbers and partnerships and reached out to community groups. The Metro-Dade Police Department, State Attorney, Superintendent of Schools, and government officials unselfishly gave of their time, talent, materials and manpower to bring the Parent Movement to Dade County. Founded entirely by funding from corporations and the community; Informed Families is the prototype on which the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America is based.

As the success of Informed Families grew, it went statewide through the support of Governor Jeb Bush and became Informed Families/The Florida Family Partnership. One statewide drug prevention message is necessary to gain critical mass and public support.

Informed Families organized the latest prevention research into four major campaigns delivered annually throughout the school year. Utilizing a high-tech, high touch approach, Informed Families educates, involves and leads students, parents and citizens across Florida in helping kids grow up safe, healthy and drug free. Never underestimate what a few determined parents can do for their kids and communities!

One part of their program that stands out to me, and is proven to be effective, is stressing the importance of getting people to participate for prevention to be effective; thus, they budget enough to reward participants.  For example, the school that gets voted best photo for Red Ribbon Week gets $1,000 and there are rewards for the top 10 schools.  The incentive also helps increase effectiveness and demonstrates their commitment to drug free messaging.

Informed Families has had annual Alcohol Literacy Challenge (ALC) trainings in both Orlando and Miami, for 10 years.  As the trainer, I’ve noticed that the prevention specialists, teachers, or coaches, that come for the trainings are treated well. Lunch is a higher quality and conscious of the needs of various diets. Statewide Program Director Christine Stilwell, pictured standing center, with the Miami training group, is very organized and energetic. She engages with all her prevention providers. She recognizes them verbally for all they are doing. They are given promotional items, and promised a financial reward for getting their reports in on time.

Some might say, “You are paid to do your job, and no further rewards is needed.” But, think of how it made you feel when someone gave you more than what was promised. Even if it was a slight amount more, I bet it made you feel great.

Ultimately, I’m sure the community and good will formed, when the winning school got 1,400 people together for their photo, was more valuable than the $1,000 prize.  But, the $1,000 incentive was what got them there!

The next time you are budgeting, think about what you might need for incentives and rewards.  Even if you give parties instead of cash, it costs money to have them. And, when you are creating a program, or wanting to expand one, see how many community partners you can get committed to it.

Please share other creative ways you are doing prevention work in your communities. And show Informed Familes some appreciation by liking this post and/or Tweeting etc.