Family Strengthening

Centers for Strengthening Urban Families

WIN Family Services established the first Center for Strengthening Urban Families (CSUF) in 2010 at Morgan State University’s School of Social Work (MSU SSW) as a community resource hub for urban families residing in and near Baltimore, MD.  CSUF assembles academic expertise, practitioner experience, and family realities in an effort to examine and promote effective strategies that holistically strengthens urban families. 

PURPOSE:  The center is a research, training, and service organization dedicated to improving the functioning of complex families.

CORE VALUES:  Our work is guided by the most basic human/family values –family is the primary unit in the development of the individual and society; its primary focus is to nurture, socialize, and protect its members.

MISSION:  The Center for Strengthening Urban Families offers services and resources to assist helping professionals in understanding, providing, creating, leading, facilitating, teaching, advocating, delivering, and evaluating Family Strengthening.

CSUF’s community engagement goals are achieved through its three-tiered service approach:

Conduct & Publish Research – CSUF serves as an avenue whereby graduate students, researchers, and practitioners may work together to conduct and publish credible research on effective family strengthening practices, programs, and services.  The Center’s research efforts primarily evaluate the systematic processes and procedures used when executing specific parameters, methods, and skills that yield positive outcomes for youth and families.

Advocacy & Education – CSUF advocates for public policies that enhance the lives and well-being of urban families.  Through discussion forums, scholarly publications, community surveys, and a number of other assessments, CSUF gathers and documents the expressed needs and concerns of urban families.  The Center works with community leaders, policy makers, legislators, and influential local and state leaders to address the needs and concerns voiced by urban families.  CSUF also hosts trainings, seminars, and conferences that increase awareness of public policy changes that directly affect urban families.  

Community Collaboration – CSUF encourages human service providers to work collaboratively, efficiently, and effectively on behalf of urban families.  Community-based programs that serve youth and adults are encouraged to adopt a Family Strengthening philosophy of care.  By doing so, organizations partner and support one another with embracing a comprehensive approach to improving the social, educational, economic, and wellness outcomes of urban families.  Practitioners and community leaders, consequently, embrace a practice framework whereby inter-relational skills and family-centered services will be employed that supports the values and goals of urban families.

CSUF is committed to fostering culturally sensitive, strengths-oriented, solution-focused, and skill-based research, practices, and services that enhance the infrastructure of urban families.

Services for the Justice System

father daughter

WIN Family Services’ introduces its newest services for the Justice System – providing a venue for skillfully shaping the structure, communication, and inter-relational interactions within the inmates’ family. While working with Morgan State University’s School of Social Work in validating the model as an evidence-based practice; WIN has been working with the Baltimore Mayor’s office to establish the practice of Family Strengthening as signature platform for addressing many of the city’s issues with crime and domestic challenges. Today, WIN continues to offer Family Strengthening training and organizational development resources to governmental and community-based organizations.

lone man in prisonTraining offers and includes:

·        a highly interactive presentation (communication skills, interventions, and strategies to strengthen inmates and their families)

·        an easy to follow sequence of "one-two-three" communication response

·        lessons on necessary inter-personal skills to maintain family and community supports 

·        introduces the “My Baby’s Father” (MBF) training, an urban family's storied odyssey that details the interactions and dramas of an urban family,

·        help for inmates to examine their role and importance in their families and help identify healthy connections for planning reintegration back to the community.

·        Communication and Intervention Skills Training - Terms and definitions of a practice that clearly delineates communications skills and reflective Interventions or “Mirrors.” 

·        Family Decision Meetings Training – and interactive method for engaging their family members in effective communication.

Quick Factsmentoring in prison

·        The Attorney General’s comprehensive Anti-Violence Strategy, led by our Nation’s U.S. Attorneys, to reduce and prevent crime is the “three-legged stool” of enforcement, prevention, reentry. 

·        Every year, some 700,000 people are released from America’s prisons and millions more cycle through local jails.  

·        The last major study of recidivism rates found that two out of every three released prisoners were re-arrested for a new offense, and about half were re-incarcerated.  

·        There is a high recidivism rate among juvenile offenders Recent statistics show an average of 50% recidivism for juvenile offenders in Maryland

·        Higher rates for youth that are in foster care and group homes.

Please Note: Family Strengthening can be presented to inmates both in large groups, smaller groups and individually with their family or identified support system.



Trainings offer culturally relevant communication and intervention skills that are meant to aid in establishing authentic interactions that produce sustainable, measurable, and actualized change.

Family Strengthening practice model trainings are available to:

·        Youth counselors


·        Caregivers

·        Helping professionals


Training includes:

·        Lectures

·        Interactive discussions

·        Scenario enactments

·        Skills practice

·        Demonstrations


Individuals will be able to gain the knowledge and experience they need to live the model in his or her every day life! Additionally, trainings are able to be customized upon an organization’s request.


Introduction to Family Strengthening Practice

From the very beginning of the training, individuals delve deep in to the rich history of the practice. Trainees will learn about the development, key players, and overall philosophical principles of the Family Strengthening Practice (FSP) Model. Practitioners of the model are introduced and taught to embrace the 7 Rules of Family Strengthening which are concrete methods of not finding fault or passing judgment on the decisions of others. For parents and care-givers, there’s something for you too! Family Strengthening training involves a sequence for shaping youth engagement and involvement.

Complex Family Scenario Training
The training is also home to the “Complex Family Model”. Trainees will journey through accounts and examples of a given family’s experience in expressing nurturance, love, and pain in sometimes distorted way; and then identify ways to join with the family, identify communication and family formation patterns, and discuss skillful ways to restructure the families’ communication and interaction. 

Communication and Intervention Skills Training
Are you looking for a way to learn new and skillful ways of communicating with one another? The skills presented in Family Strengthening Practice model is selfless and focused on positive outcomes, while illuminating interconnectedness.  Just think of the Communication and Intervention skills presented in the model as doctor ordered prescriptions for effective human communication.  Trainees learn the terms and definitions, and then practice clearly delineated Communications skills and reflective Interventions or “Mirrors.” 

Family (Decision) Meeting Training
The Family Strengthening training module now offers a method for engaging youth and their family members in effective communication. Sometimes, challenges within a family are too complex to be dealt within just the family unit. This is when helping professionals tap a source of motivation and support far beyond that available to an individual alone.  In this respect, the strengths and competence of individuals within the family (or group) and their ability to effectively communicate concerns, form a supportive, nurturing network for all family members. Trainees learn, observe, practice, and demonstrate their skill competency through scenario enactments of each of the five stages of the Family Meeting sequence.  This training brings together all the facets of Family Strengthening to help practitioners skillfully support the family to find inherent solutions and change; and learn how to effectively model these methods so the family is equipped to resolve their own issues in the future.


All Family Strengthening Trainings are uniquely interactive and engaging. Culturally relevant communication and intervention skills are imparted that aid helping professionals with establishing authentic interactions that produce sustainable, measurable, and actualized change.

Family Strengthening FAQs

Q: What is the Family Strengthening Model?

A:The Family Strengthening Model is a strength-based, holistic approach to working with families that encourages a non-threatening, systems approach to resolving the issues that arise amongst relationships. 

Q:How does the family strengthening  approach differ from the approach used by most caregivers?

A:We focus on strengths and resources rather than pathology or deficits: strengths are inherent and discoverable in any family environment.

Q:How do I learn more about the Family Strengthening model?

A:WIN Family Services is one the leaders using the model in our work with children and families.  All of our staff and foster parents are trained in the model, but we also welcome anyone interested to join our training sessions.  To find out when the next training session takes place, call (410)578-8003.

Q:What can I expect from a training in Family Strengthening?

A:Our trainings are didactic, process-oriented, and highly interactive professional development options for youth leaders, caregivers, and helping professionals.

Q:Most philosophies have rules.  What are the rules of Family Strengthening?


There are seven that are foundational for this model, and they are as follows:

1.       Do not find fault with others.

2.       Live up to the power of your own discrimination.

3.       Do not look for the fruit of your actions.

4.       I will be single-pointed.

5.       Think something good.

6.       Say something good.

7.       Do something good.


Q: Do I have to have a degree to practice this model?

A: No!  Everyone can learn and master the model with training and much practice.  Once you embrace it, you will find that the communication in most of your relationships will become more effective. 


Q: What are some of the tools used to help families through Family Strengthening?

A:Communication & Intervention Skills Training, Parenting Skills Sequence, and Family Meetings are three successful tools that we use to help families.

Q: Does my family have to come to a therapist’s office to have a clinician conduct a family meeting with us?

A: Absolutely not!  Family meetings are primarily conducted in the home.  They are an innovative way of shaping the structure, communication, and kinship love found within all families.

Q:What can I expect from a family meeting?

A:There are five stages of a family meeting that are as follows:

1.       Social Stage

2.       Issue Stage

3.       Interaction Stage

4.       Restructuring Stage

5.       Closing Stage


Evidence Based

2007 GOP Morgan State

The Practice of Family Strengthening is steadily becoming recognized throughout the nation due to its accessibility, comprehensiveness, and adaptability. Everyone is able to relate the principles set forth in the model and so many are interested in studying and learning more about the practice’s nuances.

Currently, WIN Family Services Inc. is a national partner with the Minuchin Center for Families, and collaborates with numerous organizations, including the National Human Service Assembly and the Annie E. Casey Foundation to further promote the practice of Family Strengthening. WIN is in the process of working with Lincoln University to publish a journal that focuses on the model and its practices.  Additionally, WIN is developing Centers for Strengthening Families at numerous universities to further expand outreach to local communities and help spread the word about Family Strengthening. 

The model is already recognized for its specific, replicable, and clinically-based skills that support the efforts of youth and family practitioners and produce positive outcomes for youth, families, and communities. However, in a further effort to establish the Family Strengthening Practice as an evidence-based practice, Morgan University is also conducting a pilot study guided by the pillars of Family Strengthening. Guided by six distinct Logic Models that offer intense exploration, the purpose of the study is to establish that the model truly does improve family communication patterns, identification of strengths and inherent solutions, and family formation identity. Findings of the pilot study will be released in 2014.