Last updated: May 2016
The Family Spirit conceptual framework is based on G. R. Patterson’s model that posits parenting as the critical link between parents’ personal characteristics and environmental context and children’s individual risks and outcomes. The Family Spirit intervention is designed to promote mothers’ parenting skills, while assisting them in developing coping and problem-solving skills to overcome individual and environmental stressors.
The model also incorporates traditional tribal teachings throughout the curriculum. The model developers believe that cultural teachings are protective factors that can improve maternal and child health in American Indian communities.
Paraprofessional health educators visit families in their homes. They try to establish a close rapport with families to facilitate delivery of the curriculum, which consists of 63 lessons within the following six domains: prenatal care, infant care, child development, toddler care, life skills, and healthy living. The health educators also refer families to community resources to address specific needs.
Family Spirit serves pregnant women and families with children younger than age 3. The developer strongly recommends enrolling mothers early in pregnancy. Family Spirit was designed to be implemented in Native American communities. However, it is now also being used with non-Native populations with high maternal and child behavioral health disparities.