YOUTH SERVICES UNIT
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The Youth Services Unit is a comprehensive program developed through community partnership to heighten awareness and knowledge about alcohol and drug abuse, criminal behavior, conflict resolution and violence prevention education. This cooperative partnership between the City of Edmonds, local businesses, educators, parents, students, and the community at large is tasked with the responsibility of enhancing each childís ability to make life-affirming choices.
Direction for this unit is provided by the Youth Services Advisory Committee. This committee is a dynamic group of local professionals who are regularly consulted in order to effectively deal with the various issues that affect our young citizens. The diverse nature of this committee allows the City of Edmonds to remove barriers that in some cases have divided community efforts of the past as they pertained to young people and families. One police sergeant and three officers, all of whom are specially trained to work within the school environment, staff the unit. These officers work inside and outside the classroom of Edmondsí elementary, middle and senior high schools. Their focus is on reinforcing positive choices and behaviors and acting as an advocate for the child in need. At the same time, the officers are building positive perceptions about their community police department and the importance of a safe, stable community.
The D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) curriculum is the educational foundation of the Youth Services Unit upon which we build lessons, activities and programs that go beyond traditional D.A.R.E. to serve the unique needs of our youth.
In the 4th grade program, officers teach the children to recognize, avoid, and report situations that may endanger their personal health and safety, through five activity-oriented lessons. The lessons are designed to encourage student involvement through interactive participatory activities that generate discussions and develop problem-solving skills.
Traditional drug abuse programs dwell on the harmful effects of drugs. In the sixth grade, our officers help students recognize and resist the many subtle pressures that may lead them to experiment with drugs, gangs and violence. Our program strategies focus on self-esteem, interpersonal relationships, communication skills, decision making, and positive alternatives to drug abuse behavior. An important element of the D.A.R.E. curriculum at this stage is the use of "Drug Free" student leaders as positive role models to influence younger students to make good choices in life.
The eighth grade curriculum provides the information and skills to enable students to resist complex pressures and other influences in making their personal choices. Lessons focus on helping students manage their feelings of anger and resolve conflicts without resorting to violence or the use of alcohol and drugs. Special emphasis is directed toward helping students develop the skills and qualities that are needed to achieve good character and citizenship.
The classroom teacher and officer teach the middle school program cooperatively, as part of a required course, such as health, science or social studies. The classroom teacher maintains an active role and incorporates student participation as an integral part of the studentsí final grade. The use of an experienced law enforcement officer is an effective strategy in helping provide credible education in drug abuse, violence, and gang prevention.
SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL
The aim of the senior high school program is to extend the information and reinforce the skills students need to enable them to act in their own best interest when facing high-risk choices. Equal emphasis is placed on helping students to recognize and cope with feelings of anger without causing harm to themselves or others and without resorting to violence or the use of alcohol or drugs.
A critical element of the senior high school program is the availability of an officer as a student advocate. The students recognize the officer as a resource for counseling, guidance education and discipline. Through a wide variety of subjects, such as criminology, contemporary living, drug and alcohol abuse prevention and community crime control, the officer clearly defines acceptable behavior and then hold the students accountable for their choices.
In addition to our direct involvement with students in the school environment the
Youth Services Unit provides the following community services:
2. When was the program created and why?
On July 1, 1996, the City of Edmonds greatly expanded its commitment to the children of this community with the creation of the Youth Services Unit. This concept was originally proposed to better serve the needs of our young people and address the alarming trend of increased juvenile crime, which the National League of Cities rated as the number one community concern of 1996.
From the onset, we felt it important to develop a very specific mission since the unit was founded on a community-wide commitment to benefit the children of Edmonds. With community accountability in mind, we determined our unit purpose and created the following mission statement:
Through community partnership, we strive to significantly enhance each childís ability to make life-affirming choices, thereby allowing them the opportunity to develop into responsible adults.
3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?
Since the Youth Services Unit was conceived to better serve the individual needs of our youth while at the same time addressing the increasing juvenile crime rate, the City of Edmonds developed a comprehensive two-prong evaluation process in order to accurately determine the programís effectiveness. We consider our young people a vital part of this community program so their candid assessment of our effectiveness was very important. From the onset, the City felt Youth Services could only be deemed successful if it proved, in fact, to be actually meeting the needs of our students. With this in mind, the unit created a student evaluation process in cooperation with the public and private school systems. Every student who has participated in our programs has been asked to complete this anonymous survey in order to assess the unitís effectiveness. These evaluations have been completed each school year since the unitís inception and the results are briefly summarized below:
1997 STUDENT SURVEY
94% felt our program offered valuable information that will help them make good decisions about the use of drugs and alcohol.
87% felt our program provided information that will help them avoid resorting to violent behavior.
88% felt our program offered information that will help them avoid criminal activity.
62% stated that their involvement in this program prompted them to discuss the issues of drugs, alcohol, and violence with their parents or other family members.
78% of the students felt that it was beneficial to have a school resource officer on campus.
1998 STUDENT SURVEY
95% felt our program offered valuable information that will help them make good decisions about the use of drugs and alcohol.
89% felt our program provided information that will help them avoid resorting to violent behavior.
93% felt our program offered information that will help them avoid criminal activity.
68% stated that their involvement in this program prompted them to discuss the issues of drugs, alcohol, and violence with their parents or other family members.
80% of the students felt that it was beneficial to have a school resource officer on campus.
Obviously, the Youth Services Unit was very pleased with the results of these student surveys. Perhaps even more encouraging than the individual findings, however, is the fact that the findings improved in every category during the second year. This seems to suggest that the program is actually improving with time.
As was already indicated, the Youth Services Unit was also tasked with addressing our Cityís increasing juvenile crime rate. In 1995, the year prior to the unitís creation, the City of Edmonds realized a dramatic increase in overall juvenile crime. However, since the program was adopted in 1996, the city has experienced a welcome shift in this alarming trend where overall juvenile crime has decreased each year for a total of 9%!
The combined results of our comprehensive evaluation process clearly indicate that the Youth Services Unit is making a difference in our city. We feel that the school resource officers are doing an outstanding job serving the needs of Edmondsí children; through continued community partnership we will help the children of this city develop into responsible adults.
4. How is the program financed?
This alliance has allowed us to alleviate some of the Cityís financial burden so that we are able to provide additional services to these children and their families. Since July 1, 1996, the school resource officers have raised $40,807 through private donations to support our educational efforts and special programs. In addition, our community fund raising project, the Edmonds Challenge - Run for the Kids, netted the Youth Services Unit a total of $15,021 in 1997 and 1998. As a result of the individual efforts of our school resource officers, a total of $55,828 has been raised to augment the unitís budget since its creation! We are also fortunate to have new vehicles donated to us by Chuck Olson Chevrolet and Lynnwood Honda.
In addition to local fund raising, the Youth Services Unit has secured the following grant monies to offset the cost of this program:
5. How is the community involved in the program?
The Youth Services Unit has found success this past year in part because of the support received from local business leaders and private citizens from our community. This partnership includes Stevens Hospital, Edmonds School District, Chuck Olson Chevrolet, Lynnwood Honda, Edmonds Bingo, Harbor Square Athletic Club, Frontier Bank, the Bank of Edmonds, GTE Northwest, Blue Cross of Washington, the Boeing Company, Echelbarger Development, and Select Homes Inc., along with many other local businesses and private citizens. These individuals have made a commitment with the school resource officers to provide a better community environment for the children of Edmonds.
6. Contact person:
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.