Homeless Health Initiative

Family Care Curriculum

The Family Care Curriculum (FCC) is a train-the-trainer model parenting program. Under the auspices of the Philadelphia Children's Work, FCC combines the best practices of attachment and trauma theory with the principles and self-care of Effective Black Parenting, the country's first culturally-adapted parenting skill-building program for parents of African-American children. 

Karen Hudson, MSW, LSW, program leader of the Homeless Health Initiative, and Sandy Sheller, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, clinical director of independent projects for the Salvation Army, created FCC for lay professionals, social workers, case managers and clinicians.

The program's goal is to train professionals and clinicians to help parents become more receptive, sensitive and responsive to their children’s developmental, emotional, and cultural needs — even in the midst of experiencing homelessness and/or other stressors.

Family Care helps parents learn about themselves and their family histories while learning to parent their children and meet their children's developmental needs. Parents can become more consistently sensitive and receptive to their children and their needs by understanding their own upbringing and cultural experiences, which may lead to harsh parenting behaviors, low levels of empathy and/or lack of nurturing skills and sensitivity. 

Rationale and goals

Families experiencing homelessness and those living in poverty may experience barriers such as limited economic and social supports that can compromise parenting capacities.

These families largely headed by young single mothers comprise the largest and fastest growing segment of the homeless population. The ethnic disparity within the group is striking; approximately 42 percent are African American, although African Americans only make up 12 percent of the adult population in the United States. 

FCC desires to empower these parents to become the best parents for their children.

In the present economic climate, it is imperative that we use the resources and manpower that are available and already in place in homeless shelters to work toward healing within this population. Therefore, training staff builds on a shelters' capability to provide support.

Building stronger families

The Family Care Curriculum (FCC) was designed to build stronger families and make a difference in the lives of men, women and children.

The program is designed to:

Principles of the Family Care Curriculum


Trauma can color the way parents see their children. Whether big “T” trauma or little “t” trauma, we all have “ghosts from the nursery” or “voices from the past” we bring with us into our parenting.  

For example, a crying child might remind a mother of the years she spent starving at the hands of her own mother. Instead of feeling empathy, the mother may get incredibly angry at the child for communicating a simple need. Developing specific relationship capacities of empathy, reflection, and reading a child’s cues with sensitivity, will go further and have a more lasting impact in changing parenting behaviors than just telling a parent what to do and not do.


Culture matters. The effects of slavery, continued racism, and oppression may be a factor in the use of corporal punishment and other harsh ways of disciplining. Giving parents options for discipline other than hitting can offer parents hope that their children can break the cycles of oppression and homelessness.

To discipline or teach

Children need discipline to grow and feel secure. We want to help parents learn to reframe their children’s behaviors.  By better understanding their child's age and developmental needs, parents can act more patient, consistent and firm. Parents can use positive child-rearing approaches to help their children develop their own internal control, discipline, direction and motivation to succeed. 

The goal is to shift discipline from negative — control and punishment — to positive by teaching the child how to navigate and act in life so the child will become a valuable person to society.


Parenting is often the hardest job anyone will have, especially if the individual is a single parent. Helping parents learn how to take care of themselves in the midst of taking care of another gives them the stamina to succeed at parenting despite the many challenges. 

Details about the FCC program

FCC is a six-week curriculum, which is generally doable in transient homeless shelter sites. The first three weeks are workshops based on topics selected by parent participants.

Each trainer receives a manual with all the FCC materials needed to help them facilitate parent groups. Follow-up technical support for the trainers is included. The purpose of the training is to help break the cycle of abuse and neglect. The program uses the Adult Adolescent Parenting Inventory (AAPI) pre- and post-test to measure the five top parental attitudes most likely to lead to abuse and neglect.

To date, results of FCC have been positive and more facilities are adopting the curriculum.


More information

Learn more about the Family Care Curriculum's history, results and testimonials on the Salvation Army's website. Please see our program calendar for upcoming trainings.


Reviewed by: Karen Hudson, MSW, LSW
Date: May 2013

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