It is Friday evening, and families come together for dinner. Parents and their children share a meal. Afterward, toddlers, youths, teens and adults spend time with their peers, playing games and talking story.
But this isn’t your usual pau hana gathering. The families are taking part in FETCH, the Family Education Training Center of Hawaiʻi. Each participant, from youngest to eldest, is learning new, more effective ways to relate to their loved ones and create a positive family environment.
FETCH is the brainchild of Professor of Family Resources Mary Martini and her collaborator, James Deutch, a licensed clinical social worker who lectures in the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.
Students in CTAHR classes participate in the program, dishing out dinner and assisting with activities. Community volunteers are also involved. Their participation holds down costs, allowing program clients to receive a valuable service at an affordable cost while the university students experience family counseling firsthand and learn by serving the community.
FETCH is unique in its coordinated approach to family learning, the organizers say. Each week the parents and children tackle identical concepts—such as respect, cooperation, communication, conflict resolution and problem solving—through age-appropriate curricula.
Parents attend sessions led by the volunteer licensed professionals. The children join one of four age-based groups, where they are guided through the week’s lessons by students enrolled in Family Resources 425, Supervised Training in the Helping Skills. Other Mānoa students sit in on client sessions and help set up and break down the classrooms.
Several graduate students from UH Mānoa and Chaminade University have completed master’s-level internships with FETCH.
FETCH has served more than 300 families in its first five years. More than 90 percent of surveyed participants report that they are very satisfied and would recommend FETCH to their friends and relatives.
The program produces statistically significant improvement in 20 problem areas familiar to many parents, including mealtime, bedtime, tantrums, chores, getting out the door in the morning and fighting in the car.
For additional information or to register for the 12-week program, visit the FETCH website.
Editor’s note: Adapted from the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources 2008 Impact Report: Diversifying, Sustaining, Strengthening.