YOUTH VIOLENCE PREVENTION COALITION
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The School/Community Violence Prevention Project (SCVPP) is an innovative approach to reducing youth violence in school and neighborhood sectors of the greater Lansing area. The SCVPP combines primary, secondary and tertiary prevention activities, in urban and rural settings, employing concepts from the Communities That Care Model (Hawkins & Catalano, 1993) and from Reiss & Roth (1993), who identify "Antecedents of Violent Behavior: Psychosocial Influences" at different stages of youth growth and development. Pursuant to the aforementioned models, an extensive community "risk assessment" was conducted focusing on individual, family, school and neighborhood domains of Lansing, Michigan and the rural community of Stockbridge, Michigan. A "data-informed" process was then engaged to develop service delivery initiatives to impact the areas of risk that were identified.
The resultant strategy incorporates the following program components that operate in seven urban and rural elementary, middle and high schools in Lansing and Stockbridge, Michigan:
Since the inception of the SCVPP in early 1996, more than 3,900 students and faculty members have been trained in conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques; more than 590 students have been trained as peer mediators; more than 900 mediation sessions have been conducted and enhancements to Student Assistance Programming are showing increased parent involvement in student support efforts. Preliminary data indicate, together, these activities appear to be reducing violence within school buildings. In its 1996 Report to Congress, the US Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention acknowledged the SCVPP for achieving a 10% reduction in suspensions for fighting the first year the program was implemented at the Lansing Middle School site. The past school year showed a 30% decline in disciplinary referrals for fighting at another elementary school building.
2. When was the program created and why?
The SCVPP was implemented in January 1996 because of community-wide concern over a dramatic increase (38%) in juvenile arrests involving violence in Ingham County from 1989 through 1993. The SCVPP is one component of a comprehensive five-year strategic plan developed by the Ingham County/City of Lansing Youth Violence Prevention Coalition (YVPC) to impact youth violence in the greater Lansing area. The Coalition represents a partnership between Ingham County and the City of Lansing based on a sense of urgency by both governmental bodies to systematically reduce the prevalence and incidence of violent acts to and by youth in our community.
3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?
An independent evaluation team (being headed by Patrick Clark, Ph.D., Associate Director of Evaluation and Research for the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency) is employing formative and summative evaluation activities to measure the effectiveness of the SCVPP in reducing violence in school buildings and among youth. The evaluation design is a blend of comparison site, pre-post and case study models to measure changes attributable to program operation. Units of measurement include student academic achievement (grade-point averages), suspensions and attendance; student reports of risk taking behaviors; faculty reports of program impact on school-climate; and parent reports of children's behavior at home and at school. The attached data charts illustrate key points of measurement and preliminary SCVPP outcomes.
4. How is the program financed?
The SCVPP is currently operating with a four-year grant from the Michigan Family Independence Agency, Juvenile Justice Grant Unit - the state agency through which federal funding is made available from the aforementioned Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The federal funds are matched locally by Ingham County and the City of Lansing, with in-kind contributions provided by Lansing and Stockbridge School Districts. Annually, the SCVPP operates with a budget of approximately $176,000, which finance programmatic, evaluation and program support activities. Over the four-year period of 1996 through 1999, approximately $704,000 will be invested to achieve safer schools and neighborhoods in the greater Lansing area. Efforts are currently underway to assist the local communities and their school districts to secure alternative funding and sustain the SCVPP after federal funds lapse at the end of (1999) next year.
5. How is the community involved in the program? How has the community responded to the program?
The parent organization of the SCVPP is the Ingham County/City of Lansing Youth Violence Prevention Coalition (YVPC). The YVPC consists of a broad-based, diverse membership of concerned citizens representing all major sectors of the community. The attached organization chart illustrates the representation of the Coalition. In addition to the community involvement evidenced by YVPC membership, the SCVPP operates on the principle of inverting the "top-down" approach to human services programming and using a "bottom-up" method to achieve positive community change. This strategy empowers youth, families, neighborhoods and school communities to identify problem areas and innovate solutions to impact problems such as youth violence, substance abuse and teen pregnancy. The result is an increased sense of ownership by the "targets" of program intervention - in this case youth, their families and the schools.
6. What are the major lessons learned from this program?
Pursuant to the "bottom-up" approach to program development and implementation discussed in section V. above, we have learned that positive "synergy" occurs when we, as governmental bodies, work with citizens instead of imposing social change remedies that are conceived in a theoretical vacuum. This is an important lesson because positive social change can be sustained over the long term only if the targets of social interventions are convinced they can function in the process as change agents and equal partners. This does not suggest that community-based programming should be dominated by the "grass-roots." We have found that a lack of sophistication, regarding the complexities of program development, by grass-roots associates and the focus on narrower agendas threaten the viability of community dominated social change efforts. In the spirit of true collaboration, community involved - government facilitated initiatives in the social development arena provide an excellent structure to produce positive outcomes.
7. Contact person:
This document was prepared by Charles W. Steinberg, Contract Manager, City of Lansing, Human Relations and Community Services Department, 124 W. Michigan Avenue, Lansing, Michigan (48933). Telephone contact can be made at (517) 483-4487, Monday through Friday, 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Comments or questions can 221also be directed by E-mail to: Steinbe1@pilot.msu.edu (no period at the end of E-mail address).
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.