Family Strengthening in the Context of COVID-19: Adapting a Community-Based Intervention from Kenya to the United States

Eve S. Puffer, Savannah L. Johnson, Kaitlin N. Quick, Amber D. Rieder, Mahgul Mansoor, Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, Sierra Jones, Shaneeka Moore-Lawrence, Justin D. Rasmussen, Cameron Cucuzzella, Francelia Burwell, Latoria Dowdy, Florine Moore, Nancy Rosales

COVID-19 led to widespread disruption of services that promote family well-being. Families impacted most were those already experiencing disparities due to structural and systemic barriers. Existing support systems faded into the background as families became more isolated. New approaches were needed to deliver evidence-based, low-cost interventions to reach families within communities. The authors adapted a family strengthening intervention developed in Kenya (“Tuko Pamoja”) for the United States.

The authors tested a three-phase participatory adaptation process. In phase 1, they conducted community focus groups including 11 organizations to identify needs and a community partner. In phase 2, the academic-community partner team collaboratively adapted the intervention. They held a development workshop and trained community health workers to deliver the program using an accelerated process combining training, feedback, and iterative revisions. In phase 3, they piloted Coping Together with 18 families, collecting feedback through session-specifc surveys and participant focus groups. Community focus groups confirmed that concepts from Tuko Pamoja were relevant, and adaptation resulted in a contextualized intervention— “Coping Together”—an 8-session virtual program for multiple families. As in Tuko Pamoja, communication skills are central and applied for developing family values, visions, and goals. Problem-solving and coping skills then equip families to reach goals, while positive emotion-focused activities promote openness to change. Sessions are interactive, emphasizing skills practice. Participants reported high acceptability and appropriateness, and focus groups suggested that most content was understood and applied in ways consistent with the theory of change. The accelerated reciprocal adaptation process and intervention could apply across resource-constrained settings.