CITY OF LOS ANGELES, CA
Mayor Richard J. Riordan

THE L.A. BRIDGES PROGRAM

1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.

L.A. BRIDGES is a school-based, prevention program focusing on middle-school youth (ages 10-14) who are at high risk of school violence, pre-delinquent and delinquent behavior and/or gang affiliation. The Steering Committee for the Bridges Program includes representatives of Mayor Richard Riordanís Office, the City Council, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Commission for Children Youth and Families, and the Cityís Community Development Department (CDD). The Bridges Program reports to the City Councilís Ad Hoc Committee on Gangs and Juvenile Justice, and is administered by the Cityís Community Development Department. This four-year program is designed to reduce violence among youth and at our schools, strengthen family foundations, improve home-school collaboration, and empower residents through community action. It is unique in its efforts to combine (1) a program aimed directly at at-risk youth and their families, (2) a requirement for community dialogue and interaction on an on-going basis, and (3) a gang intervention component to reduce tensions among gangs locally. Structurally, Bridges consists of the following components:

Program for Youth and their Families:

There are 26 school-based L.A. Bridges sites throughout Los Angeles. These sites were selected based on: youth risk factors, such as poor school attendance and achievement, and violent behavior at school or in the community; family risk factors including family violence, gang activity and substance abuse; and community risk factors, such as a high levels of crime and juvenile crime. Through a competitive grants process, the City funded 26 non-profit, community-based organizations to each lead their own consortium of sub-contractors. Together these agencies provide an array of services to meet the needs of program youth and families and work toward three basic objectives: actualizing youth achievement; strengthening family foundations; and promoting community action.

Through referrals, each consortium identifies 60 high-risk youth who receive a full evaluation by a team, which includes a psychologist and school personnel. Based on this evaluation, the team develops a Service Plan for each youth (and family) that outlines a specific course of action to address problems and enhance protective factors. Case management provides on-going assistance and guidance for the target youth throughout the 4-year program. In addition, each consortium serves 150 at-risk youth by offering positive alternatives to delinquent activity or gang affiliation.

Through the consortium, students participate in after school and weekend educational and recreational activities, tutoring, mentoring, community service opportunities, and individual or family counseling. Youth are also involved in activities that teach and promote anger management, non-violent conflict resolution and dispute mediation skills. These activities further address youth and family issues that contribute to truancy and the potential for dropping out of school. Other opportunities include entrepreneurial training, workplace mentoring, and cross cultural exchanges. Each program site is organized around a school-based Family Resource Center, where youth and families (siblings, parents, grandparents) receive services and participate in social and community events. Services and resources for family members include counseling, case management (referrals for emergency assistance, substance abuse, medical issues), pre-natal care, parent education, dispute resolution, and job training and placement.

Community Discourse and Action:

Each consortium also convenes a monthly Neighborhood Advocacy Council Committee (NACc) comprised of key stakeholders, including consortium members, school representatives, law enforcement, students, parents and concerned residents. This body addresses ways to reduce gang and criminal activity at schools and in the neighborhoods proximate to the school. Through active participation of the individual members and effective sharing of resources and information, local neighborhoods are being empowered to make a difference in the safety and well being of all residents.

The NAC Committees gather quarterly on a regional basis with additional stakeholders, such as area clergy, probation officers, and City and local representatives. This body, the Neighborhood Advocacy Council (NAC), provides an area-wide forum for sharing successes and ideas, and discussing challenges. Consortia are also required to host at least 3 community events targeting youth and their families.

Gang Intervention:

Community-based gang intervention specialists throughout the City work with local gang leaders to: (1) develop peace treaties among rival gangs; (2) diffuse potentially troubling or violent situations among gang members or gangs; (3) create opportunities for rival gangs to engage in sports events to know each other as people, not rivals; and (4) provide employment connections for these youth. The intervention teams also staff a "Safe Passages" Program to protect children going to and from school, and coordinate other community mobilization activities to enhance neighborhood safety (graffiti clean-up, peace keeping events).

 2. When was the program created and why?

Created in 1996 and implemented in 1997, L.A. Bridges was a response to the murder of a 3-year old child whose family got lost in a gang controlled neighborhood. The Mayorís and Cityís outrage and grief at yet another brutal child murder, and an unacceptably high level of violence in the schools and communities, took the form of civic and community action. L.A.ís Mayor Riordan developed the Street Violence Working Group and the City Councilís Ad Hoc Committee on Gangs and Juvenile Justice, chaired by Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, convened a series of program planning meetings. Planning Team members included representatives from the Office of the Mayor, the City Council, the L.A. School District, the LAPD, the Commission on Children, Youth and Families, the Cityís Community Development Department, local agencies, researchers from local universities, and community residents (including youth). The Planning Team developed L.A. Bridges and chose a prevention/intervention model that targets middle-school aged children, since this age group is high risk for pre-delinquent and gang-related activity, especially when they perceive no alternatives.

3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?

The funding appropriated for L.A. Bridges Citywide also included support for an external evaluation of the projectís effectiveness. The program evaluator is responsible for an assessment of program implementation (e.g., number and characteristics of clients, services and units of services provided, program partner roles and responsibilities), as well as process and outcome evaluation. The process evaluation will analyze the consortia and their coordination, criteria used in selecting target youth, and immediate accomplishments of the project. Process evaluation will include a formative component to ensure that information is fed back to the program in order to modify it, as needed, to better serve youth and families.

The outcome evaluation will focus on identifying and assessing measurable impacts of the project on key indicators, as well as its overall effectiveness. Baseline for the following indicators has been captured for year 1 and will be measured in each subsequent year. Indicators include: actualizing youth achievement (e.g., increase in school attendance and performance, reduction in violent incidents on and around school campuses); strengthening family foundations (e.g., increase in parent-youth involvement, increased participation by parents in school and community activities, reduction in family violence); and promoting community action (e.g., accomplishments of the Neighborhood Advocacy Councils, increase in community mobilization efforts, such as graffiti clean-up and peace building). Comparisons will be made for individual youth before and after program participation. For each site, a comparison group of at- or high risk students not served by the program will be selected.

The program evaluator will be responsible to the L.A. Bridges Evaluation Task Force, which was appointed by the City Councilís Ad Hoc Committee on Gangs and Juvenile Justice. It includes representatives from the Mayorís Office, the City Council, local universities and the Community Development Department (CDD). CDD is also charged with program monitoring to ensure consortia cooperation with contractual obligations and provide technical assistance.

4. How is the program financed?

The Mayor and the City Council of Los Angeles support L.A. Bridges. During its first two years, L.A. Bridges has been financed by the Cityís General Fund, combined with the Cityís Local Law Enforcement Block Grant (LLEBG).

5. How is the community involved in the program? How has the community responded to the program?

The community is a key player in L.A. Bridges. Residents from each of the middle school area communities participate with the schools, law enforcement and other agencies, in both the Neighborhood Advocacy Councils and the Neighborhood Advocacy Council Committees. The NAC members work together to address neighborhood issues of crime, cultural diversity, education, economics, health and safety, and to improve the quality of life. This reciprocal community guardianship is critical to combating school and community violence. The participant communities have embraced the program and community support has been demonstrated by volunteerism at the sites, strong and consistent participation in the NACs, and fundraising for program supplies and special events.

6. Contact person:

Michael F. Thompson, Director

Mayorís Criminal Justice Planning Office

City Hall East, Room 700

200 North Main Street

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Office: (213)485-4425

Fax: (213)847-3004

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