The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Improving Lives, Communities and the Economy

Strengthening Families

Melendez family.

Strengthening Families - Creating Family Harmony

  • Internationally recognized, evidence-based parenting and family strengthening program
  • Families benefit by increased parenting skills, while parent’s stress and children’s behavior problems decreased
  • 159 participants in families in Pinal and Santa Cruz Counties




Maria Melendez likes to say she is a mom by choice – she joined a family with three children.

While she was thrilled to become a parent, Melendez knew she needed strategies to create harmony in the home.

The Casa Grande family turned to the Strengthening Families Program, conducted by the University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension in Pinal and Santa Cruz counties.

During the 14-week program, families gather with trainers once a week to share in a sit-down, community dinner. Parents and children break into groups and then return together at the end of the evening for play time and an opportunity to practice new parenting strategies.

Strengthening Families is an internationally recognized, evidence-based parenting and family strengthening program. The Pinal and Santa Cruz programs are funded through a five-year United States Department of Agriculture grant focused on Children & Youth Families at Risk. Over the first three years this Program has served 159 participants from 39 families in Pinal County and 33 families in Santa Cruz County.

While the program focuses on families with children ages 3 to 5, it benefitted the entire family, said Melendez, whose oldest child is 14. They learned to communicate and make family time a priority.

“Before there was no real family dinner,” she said. “Everyone walked into the kitchen and grabbed food and went to watch TV. Now we have dinner, we have conversation, we listen to each other and we laugh and have a good time.”

She said strategies learned in class help her and the children’s father have more patience.

Esther Turner, site coordinator for this Pinal County Cooperative Extension program, said it gives families tools to improve family dynamics.

“A lot of what we talk about is communication, discipline versus punishment, family meetings, unwanted behavior and how to deal with it,” Turner said. “We are being proactive rather than reactive. It’s a really positive program.”

Cathy Martinez, family, consumer and health sciences Cooperative Extension agent in Pinal County, said “We are equipping families with strategies that can work,” Martinez said. “It’s great to have tools to help kids become productive, happy adults.”

Impact Stories

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