April 01, 2011

Tools for Preventing Youth Violence

Claire Chiamulera

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

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.

Blueprints  for Violence Prevention

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: 

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.