YOUTH SERVICES DIVISION
City leaders in Southfield, Michigan realized that a plan of action was needed to combat the cityís alarming pattern of rising negative youth behavior. It was determined that the usual tactics of simply reacting to incidents of youth delinquency were ineffective. City Officials decided, that a comprehensive, proactive approach was the best medicine to treat the youth-related ills of gangs, drug use, crime, and violence. A city council-appointed task force recommended that a youth services division be established to address the dilemma. The Southfield Youth Services Division, which began operations in February of 1995, is a cooperative effort between the City of Southfield and the Southfield Public School District. The Director of the program reports directly to the Southfield City Administrator and the Superintendent of the Southfield Public School District. Such a unique arrangement ensures that the Youth Services Director maintains his efforts and allegiances in both city and school concerns. Program costs, including the Directorís salary, are shared equally between the city and the school district and office space is provided in a central location in the city.
The Youth Services Division recognized that the existing city programs lacked sufficient adult, role models and that there was a shortage of suitable resources and activities for the youth. A philosophy with goals designed to satisfy those deficiencies was adopted. Some of the targeted goals were:
Development of multi-disciplinary teams of caring adult professionals
The Youth Services Division understood that any program designed to satisfy the stated goals would have to be flexible and include a cross-section of the community. With that in mind, a variety of all-inclusive programs for the youth were developed.
One such program is titled "Twenty-First Century - Youth Center Without Walls." The program, which is held at four area public schools is open three days a week from 2:35 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. The youths are offered an array of educational and recreational activities designed to build and enrich their social, moral, emotional, physical and cognitive needs. For instance, one session concentrates on educational tutoring, conflict resolution, maundering, behavioral modification, counseling and a career education. Another session, by contrast, offers basketball, volleyball, soccer, aerobics, modern dance, golf, art, music, and field trips.
The staffing for "Twenty-First Century - Youth Center Without Walls" is just as diverse as the programs. Instructors or chaperones may include public school teachers, parents, social workers, employment training specialists, community police officers, D.A.R.E. officers, school liaison officers, librarians or recreational aides. Consequently, the youths receive positive guidance from adults who, collectively, possess a wide range of expertise. The total cost of the program, including staffing, transportation, and custodial overhead, totaled $58,700.00.
The Youth Services Division also coordinated "Youth Break Centers" based in the Southfield Public Library. The program is a collaborative project that involves the Police Department, Parks and Recreation Department, Public Library, and Youth Services Division. The program was implemented in response to the growing number of negative incidents involving youngsters utilizing the library during evening hours. Several activities are providing: (including) study tables, computers with educational games, movie videos, books, pool tables, and table tennis. The program, which is available during after-school hours, effectively provided a supervised outlet for the youth to direct their energies.
The Youth Services Division and other City departments are also involved in tutoring and job shadowing programs. The job shadow programs, for instance, help youngsters achieve educational and career goals by encouraging students to spend time at work with some of the Cityís municipal employees.
The benefits of the Youth Services Divisionís programs are astounding. Police statistics show that juvenile arrests declined 26.8 percent in the year immediately following the establishment of the programs. Approximately 15,500 youth have participated in sponsored activities. The clear and obvious implications that the programs had a direct effect on youth delinquency and violence in Southfield. There was also a documented increase in Michigan Educational Assessment Program reading and science scores at two target schools. Several youths have received job placements. More youths are participating in community and school events. Student behavior and social skills have improved. Employment and Training have provided for the increased use of computers by the youth. Perhaps the most important benefit, however, has been the increased camaraderie and understanding between the youth and adults in the community.
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.