December 2001 // Volume 39 // Number 6 // Ideas at Work // 6IAW5

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Planting Seeds Family Enrichment Program: Serving Rural Immigrant Hispanic Families and Their Youth in Eastern North Carolina

The United States Census has estimated a 394% increase of Hispanics in North Carolina. The development of family enrichment programs for rural Hispanics has become a challenge for helping professionals such as Extension professionals. The Planting Seeds Family Enrichment Program focused on immigrant Hispanic families and their youth. Multiple qualitative methods were used to evaluate the program. Hispanic families and their youth actively participated in developing stronger families, leadership, community skills, and wellness. Recommendations for Extension professionals are provided.

Ruben P. Viramontez Anguiano
Assistant Professor
Department of Child Development and Family Relations
East Carolina University
Greenville, North Carolina
Internet Address:


The United States Census has estimated a 394% increase in individuals of Hispanic descent residing in North Carolina (Associated Press, 2001). This population shift has been documented in the rural eastern regions of North Carolina.

Similar to other ethnic populations, Hispanic families in Eastern North Carolina have participated in chain migration. After a family has found a geographic region to have an acceptable quality of life, extended family, fictive kin, and friends will also migrate.

Historically, Eastern North Carolina has had a tobacco and seafood based economy. A population increase in several small cities has created additional labor opportunities in construction, restaurant, and other service industries. Involvement in local economies through ownership of small businesses and participation in the social, religious, and political processes have been pivotal for Hispanic families who were once considered a migrant population.

This turning point has created a paradigm shift in understanding and serving rural Hispanic families in Eastern North Carolina. Helping professionals have struggled to serve Hispanic families in a culturally diverse rural region. A lack of resources and cultural knowledge has provided an opportunity for the development of family enrichment programs.


The Planting Seeds Family Enrichment Program (PSFEP) was based on an ecological wraparound perspective that was, in turn, based on an assumption that families bring an expertise to their unique situation and, when given the opportunity, can competently define their needs (Handron, Dosser, McCammon, & Powell, 1998). This process explored family dynamics through a strengths-based systemic lens that included the individual, family, and community.

Hispanic families and their youth were asked to be active partners with the facilitators throughout this program. Facilitators included family life educators, professors, business professionals, non-profit agencies, educators, university students, and a registered dietitian. A majority of the facilitators were bilingual in Spanish and English. Those who were not bilingual demonstrated an understanding of Hispanic culture.

The PSFEP was held in Greenville, North Carolina, which is the largest city in rural Pitt County. Participants were recruited from sites such as schools, churches, and nonprofit agencies and through word of mouth. The program targeted Hispanic families with youth between the ages of 12-17. For families with children younger than 12 years old, childcare was provided. Free lunch and transportation were provided. The expenses for the PSFEP were covered through a grant received by the United Way of Pitt County. Participants consisted of 16 parents and 20 youth.

During the extensive 1-day program, families and their youth participated in five different workshops and interactive experiences. Participants were actively involved in building strong families, leadership skills, community development skills, and wellness.

Evaluation and Results

Multiple qualitative methods were used to assess the effectiveness of the project. Parents participated in a bilingual focus group. Bilingual and culturally sensitive observers provided interpretations of the participants' interactions. The youth also had an opportunity to provide feedback. Thus, the use of multiple qualitative methods permitted the collection of specific kinds of data that may not have been obtained if quantitative survey procedures had been used.

Results were summarized as themes across the three qualitative methods. Themes within the parent focus group discussions consisted of the following:

  • Maintaining strong families,
  • Intergenerational passage of Hispanic culture,
  • Cultural differences between Hispanic and mainstream cultures,
  • Healthy lifestyles,
  • Developing strong communities and leaders,
  • Nurturing fathers, and
  • Socializing children to develop positive values.

Observation interpretation themes were:

  • Gender differences between parents,
  • Gender differences between youth,
  • Developing leadership skills,
  • Regional differences among Hispanics in the United States,
  • Positive youth interaction, and
  • Building strong multicultural communities.

Important themes generated by the youth included:

  • Strong role models,
  • Positive family interactions,
  • Being proactive youth, and
  • Taking pride in Hispanic culture.

Program Replication

This PSFEP could be replicated in other United States regions (Northwest, Midwest, and Southeast) where the Hispanic population has increased. Specific issues that should be considered before conducting a similar program include:

  • Bilingual and culturally sensitive facilitators
  • Bilingual Registered Dietitian
  • Available childcare
  • Transportation for families
  • Facilitators trained in Family and Human Development
  • Focus on the strengths of families
  • Use of qualitative methods in the evaluation process

Recommendations for Extension

The results of the PSFEP contain important recommendations for Extension specialists who provide outreach to rural Hispanic families and youth. Those recommendations include the following:

  • Family and Human Development specialists should focus on culturally appropriate workshops.

  • A bilingual Extension Nutritionist who has a competent understanding of the Hispanic diet should be included.

  • 4-H specialists should consider the importance of Hispanic family socialization on the youth.

  • Extension specialists should consider the importance of the "immigrant experience" of Hispanic families.

  • Extension staff should develop partnerships with rural Hispanic families and other helping professionals.


During this program Hispanic families and their youth actively participated in sessions related to developing strong families, leadership, and community skills. The program demonstrated that positive partnerships were developed by Hispanic families and helping professionals in an effort to build stronger families and communities.


Census shows North Carolina tops in country in Hispanic growth. (2001, April 1). Daily Reflector: Greenville, p. A1.

Handron, D. S., Dosser, D. A., McCammon, S. L., & Powell, J. Y. (1998). "Wraparound" the wave of the future: Theoretical and professional practice implications for children and families with complex needs. Journal of Family Nursing, 4, 65-86.