There are a dizzying number of youth violence prevention programs. Knowing which ones work can be a challenge. At a recent teleconference, Preventing Youth Violence in Communities, hosted by the Chapin Hall Center for Children on February 24, 2011, youth violence experts shared the following resources to help make sense of what works—based on science—in preventing youth violence.
The University of Colorado’s Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence began the Blueprints for Violence Prevention project to identify programs that are proven to work. Blueprints has systematically reviewed over 900 violence and drug prevention programs.
By applying a rigorous experimental design, it determines if a program meets criteria showing effectiveness in reducing violence, delinquency, substance abuse, or other violence-related risk factors for at least one year.
Among the 900 plus programs studied to date, 11 were identified as “model,” which means they have a high level of evidence showing their effectiveness and have been replicated successfully in other communities. These 11 programs are:
- Midwestern Prevention Project (MPP)—comprehensive, community-based adolescent drug abuse prevention program.
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBS)—community and school-based mentoring program for at-risk children and youth.
- Functional Family Therapy (FFT)—family-based prevention and intervention program used to treat at-risk youth and their families in a variety of contexts.
- Life Skills Training (LST)— adolescent substance abuse prevention program that targets social and psychological factors that promote substance use and other risky behaviors by youth.
- Multisystemic Therapy (MST)—intensive family/community-based treatment program focusing on chronic and violent juvenile offenders.
- Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP)—provides maternal and early childhood support to vulnerable, first-time parents to promote healthy futures.
- Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care (MTFC)—cost-effective alternative to regular foster care, group or residential treatment, and incarceration for youth who have problems with chronic disruptive behavior.
- Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (BPP)—school-based program that works to reduce bullying and improve peer relationships among school children.
- Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies (PATHS)—program designed to help at-risk and special needs students develop social and emotional skills to successfully manage their feelings, relationships, and work.
- The Incredible Years: Parent, Teacher and Child Training Series (IYS)—program that reduces children’s aggression and behavior problems and increases social competence at home and at school.
- Project Towards No Drug Abuse (Project TND)—drug abuse prevention program targeting at-risk high school-aged youth.
Nineteen programs were deemed “promising,” which means they have demonstrated good results but still need to be replicated in their communities, or need more time to demonstrate effectiveness.
The 30 Blueprints programs span many areas—school-based supports, mentoring, treatment of high-risk youth, supports for parents, treatment for mental health disorders, bullying prevention, anger management, among others. View these programs and descriptions at the web site above.
Centers for Disease Control and Injury Prevention (CDC)
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control: Violence Prevention
The CDC has studied youth violence as a public health issue since the early 1980s. The CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control has five strategic areas for youth violence prevention:
- monitoring and researching the problem,
- developing and evaluating prevention strategies,
- supporting and enhancing prevention programs,
- providing prevention resources, and
- encouraging research and development.
The CDC pursues work in these areas through several initiatives, iincluding:
- STRYVE—Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere
STRYVE works to identify and support approaches that reduce youth violence and guide communities’ efforts to implement evidence-based violence prevention
STRYVE Online offers how-to information to help local communities plan, implement, and evaluate youth violence prevention programs. It provides access to the latest evidence-based tools, training opportunities, and online “community workspaces” that assist communities with each stage of implementing a violence prevention program.
- UNITY—Urban Networks Increasing Thriving Youth
UNITY works with representatives from 13 of the largest U.S. cities to implement research-based, sustainable youth violence prevention efforts. It focuses on school-based violence, gang-related violence, and street/neighborhood violence. It fosters public-private partnerships and supports local planning and implementation through training and capacity-building efforts.
The Unity Roadmap outlines nine components of an effective urban violence prevention program organized around three main themes—partnerships, prevention, and strategy. These components are based on a review of effective city prevention efforts, a literature review, and expert interviews.
- Academic Centers of Excellence on Youth Violence Prevention
The CDC funds several Academic Centers of Excellence (ACEs) throughout the country. These centers involve partnerships between a local community, research universities, and community-based organizations to combat youth violence at the local level. ACEs study youth violence in the community and then plan, implement, and evaluate violence prevention approaches. ACEs support multidisciplinary collaborations that integrate science and prevention. Some ACEs focus on a specific aspect of youth violence, like gangs, while others take a broader approach. Specific populations may also be a focus, such as Latino or Asian/Pacific Islander youth.
In the last 5-6 years, the CDC has funded the following ACEs:
- Philadelphia Collaborative Violence Prevention Center
- Columbia University Center for Youth Violence Prevention
- Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center
- Johns Hopkins University Center for the Prevention
of Youth Violence
- MeHarry Medical College, Nashville Urban Partnership Academic Center of Excellence
- University of California, Berkeley, Center on Culture, Immigration, and Youth Violence Prevention (Oakland)
- University of California, Riverside—Southern California Academic Center of Excellence on Youth Violence Prevention
- University of Hawaii, Asian/Pacific Islander Youth Violence Prevention Center
- University of Chicago, Chicago Center for Youth Violence Prevention
- Virginia Commonwealth University Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development
The work of the Blueprints program and the CDC to identify youth violence prevention programs and approaches that work based on rigorous scientific review is invaluable to advocates trying to make sense of the many available programs.
Claire Chiamulera is the editor of ABA Child Law Practice, Washington, DC.