1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The structure of the Reichert House is simple. It involves the childís school, parents and the Gainesville Police Department. This relationship forms a triad with each part supporting the other on campus, in the community and at home. First, a child is identified as either having a potential behavior problem or has a behavior problem, which could lead to or has led to negative contacts with the school administration or law enforcement via referrals from school administrators, community leaders, juvenile social workers, court administrators, church leaders and others.
In order to maintain a constant flow of information and to provide a base line of information to the Reichert House staff, all referrals are now referred back to an individualís respective school dean who now makes the contact with the Reichert House. This was a necessary step, as the need in the community grew, referrals were coming in from too many directions causing staff to have a hard time of doing the necessary monitoring and tracking.
The school deans, who in this county are the ones who deal with the discipline referrals on the school campus, and the Gainesville Police Department work closely together to monitor a Reichert House memberís behavior on campus and off. The deans are the "eyes and ears" while the member-student is on campus. If there is any discipline problems that day, the dean makes contact with one of the officers assigned to the Reichert House, as soon as possible, which is usually no later than the end of the school day. If it is a major infraction, then contact is made immediately and an officer responds to campus. All referrals of member-students are faxed to the Reichert House, as well as a copy placed in a basket in the deans office, so that, when an officer is on campus, they may pick up a hard copy of said referral.
The parentsí role in this triad is very important, however, most of our members come from broken homes. Homes in which there are no identifiable positive male models, or fathers. Homes where the mother or grandmother is the primary caregiver. This triad approach to combating school violence is also an approach to lowering the incidence of violence in our community. This triad approach also provides support for the home environment. In order to be a part of the Reichert House, a memberís parent or guardian has to be committed to allowing the staff complete and total access to all school and medical records. The parents and guardians also have to commit to 10 hours a month contact time as a volunteer at the Reichert House with the staff and their child. Parents are also mandated to attend monthly parent meetings and various workshops as they are developed.
The Gainesville Police Departmentís role in this triad has many facets and takes on varying degrees depending on the situations as they arise. As a facilitator of communication between the three entities, these Officers serve as positive role models; provide early law enforcement interdiction when possible; act as a champion for the member-studentís rights and the rights of all on the campus environment; as well as provide the necessary outside referrals to other agencies. These are just some of the roles that the Reichert House staff are called on to fulfill.
While there is a limited capacity of the Reichert House itself, staff is currently doing outreach on several school campuses. Again the deans are making all the referrals to the Reichert House Outreach component. The deans have been asked to refer that 10% of the school body who is in constant contact with the deanís office and are causing the quality of life and education on campus to suffer. The cry for help has gotten louder over the years and the response has yet to catch up with the demand.
On a typical day, the Reichert House operates in this manner: Right after school is out, a van driven by Reichert House staff arrives to pick up the member-students to transport them to the facility. At the facility, the member-students are provided tutors (who volunteer their time) to assist them with any homework they may have from school. Then, other activities include life-style management (which consists of anger management, dealing with peer pressure, open-round table discussions, etc.); computer skills; athletic activities; field trips; guest speakers; military drill and ceremony; volunteering and community projects. The day always ends with dinner and transportation provided to a member-studentís respective home.
The day to day extracurricular activities may vary, but homework and life-style management is always a component of the dayís activities. By the end of the day, the member-student has spent his entire day with either a parent or guardian, the school and then the Reichert House. A member-student does not normally get home until around 7:30 P.M., just in time for bed and preparations for the next day, which will bring the same routine.
Parent(s)/Guardian --> School --> Reichert House
2. When was the program created and why?
The program was created approximately 10 years ago. It started as a Right of Passage program for African-American males who were experiencing behavior problems at school and in the community.
3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?
Years ago, before the current state of affairs, it was rather easy to measure the programís effectiveness. By design, the programís measure of success was solely the number of tax contributing adults that were developed versus the number of tax takers, i.e., those in jail or on welfare. At first, the goal of the Reichert House was to provide this community with solid citizens, those who understand the community norms and could function within these parameters. The programís aim was not to send everyone off to college, it was simply to slow down the onslaught of black males heading into the penal system. If a young man was to go off to the military or job corps or simply graduate from high school and go on to find gainful employment, we call that a success just the same as if someone went on to college. Back then, the members also entered the program at older ages than they are today, a sign of the changing times, so the success was only three or four years away.
Today, however, because of the changing times, we are now getting members as early as 10 years old and approximately in 5th grade. We had to look at ways to quantify our efforts and not wait three or four year to see what impact our efforts were having on the development of our member-students and the overall impact of the quality of life on our school campuses, at home and in the community. In order to grasp hold of all of this information, it became tantamount for the schools and the Gainesville Police Department to solidify a working relationship that allows for a free flow of information back and forth. We were using as a measuring tool the number of referrals to the deanís office and the number of non-positive police contacts that our member-students had over a course of a school year to determine our effectiveness.
However, today, in conjunction with the school boardís research department who has a database set up to track all aspects of a studentís academic life. We are going to be able to track test scores, behavior, attendance, and more as well as set up a test group with similar backgrounds who are not participating in the Reichert House Program. Now, when we get our quarterly report from the school board, we will be able to compare the two groups to better measure the impact that we are having on the quality of life on our campuses. If word of mouth and the number of inquiries into our program are any indicators or measures for success, than our program has been a resounding success.
4. How is the program financed?
Although there are a number of other partners, the Gainesville Police Department finances almost the whole program. The police department supplies two full-time police officers and a part-time recreational aid. This commitment by the department includes all salaries and benefits. The officers are the lead workers at the site and are assigned within the police department to the Crime Prevention/Youth Services Division. The Reichert House is also supported by the State Attorneys Office, who has set up a restitution fund that contributes a portion of said funds to the operation of the Reichert House through the Black on Black Crime Task Force, another one of the partners. Funding and/or resources are also made available through the Corner Drug Store, Inc., a non-profit organization, who also makes available outside family, drug, and health counselors to the member-students and their family. The Gainesville Housing Authority, finances and supplies maintenance on the house when needed, as well as other financial contributions, such as purchasing computer software for the computer lab. This program is collaborative effort by many concerned entities.
5. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?
The community is very involved. From the community food bank which helps supply food to feed the member-students everyday , to the local restaurants who also supply food, to the local builders association who in 1996 completely renovated the house, community support is tremendous. The community is eager to assist at any and all junctures, it is simply a matter of identifying a need and asking the appropriate business or organization. Most of the time, however, before we are even at the point of looking for assistance, someone or some business steps forward to lend a helping hand.
We have had to turn down more children than we are able to service because of the results, impact and the community involvement that parents and educators are witnessing on a daily basis.
6. Contact person:
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.