ISLAND YOUTH PROGRAMS
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
Island Youth Programs is a unique and innovative project to reduce youth violence in the City of Galveston. It is comprised of four inter-related programs that are community based and emphasize collaboration between agencies. The design is a comprehensive approach integrating prevention and intervention efforts to target identified risk factors for delinquency at critical stages of development. This approach increases the impact of individual programs by reducing overlapping services, sharing resources and coordinating efforts between agencies for youth. Each program has one agency that provides administration but most involve several agencies working together to provide the service. Youth Activities provides supervised recreation with trained leaders for all ages focused in neighborhoods of highest need. Second Step, a violence prevention curriculum, provides critical social and problem solving skills in elementary schools. Peer Court works with youth convicted of misdemeanor offenses involving them and other youth in a creative approach to community restitution and education. The Truancy Abatement and Burglary Suppression Program or TABS, brings together local schools, community agencies and police in working with truants. The Island Youth Advisory Board oversees the project and is comprised of leaders or designated representatives from all involved community agencies. The University of Texas Medical Branch coordinates the project on behalf of the involved programs and the advisory board, providing administrative support, training and evaluation. Galveston received national recognition for Island Youth Programs with the 1995 City Livability Award from the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Youth Activities: Many youth turn to delinquent and violent behaviors for the lack of anything better to do with their time. Supervised group activities offer opportunities for practicing desirable behaviors and contact with prosocial peers. They are an important resource for other youth programs, reinforcing those efforts with positive alternatives. Adult leaders provide constructive role models in addition to supervision of activities. Research shows that the level of training of adult leaders is a critical factor in developing positive behaviors for youth group participants. Collaboration in training provides a consistent approach across agencies and activities, reinforcing their effect on youth. Providing transportation for activities increases participation and access to other programs. Youth crime in Galveston is highest in areas lacking youth programs and facilities. The City Department of Parks and Recreation, Galveston Independent School District and the Boys and Girls Club have developed a cooperative plan sharing resources in order to serve youth and families in those districts. Youth Activities currently supports 4 youth group leaders working in neighborhood centers with the Parks and Recreation Department and the Boys and Girls Club.
The program provided over 500 hours of training for these and other youth activity leaders over the past three year. Project funding repaired two existing community youth centers and purchased equipment and program materials, including 4 fifteen passenger vans. In two neighborhoods lacking community centers, programs utilize elementary school gyms. Developing new programs with the community, Youth Activities created a Rites of Passage group created by the Family Support Group to Stop the Violence. The project more than doubled program activity and youth participation for the Boys and Girls Club and the City Parks and Recreation Department.
Second Step: Extensive research shows violent individuals lack specific skills including empathy, problem solving and anger management. A school based program provides the most efficient means to teach children these skills. The project established Second Step, a violence prevention curriculum in five of the nine Galveston Independent School District elementary schools, kindergarten through fifth grade. Second Step is a sequential, developmentally graded social competence program designed by the Committee for Children, a Seattle based nonprofit organization. It teaches recognition of the feelings of others, strategies for solving social problems and anger management skills in a year long curriculum of 30 lessons. Classroom activities aimed at illustrating and rehearsing skills incorporate techniques of cognitive behavior modification and interpersonal problem solving. The curriculum uses existing teaching staff and school counselors, providing them with training and well prepared instruction materials. This expands the impact of the program as skills are modeled by teachers solving problems in other lessons and reinforced by discipline with students. Parents are provided information on the curriculum and suggestions on how to practice skills at home.
Peer Court: Peer Court provides early intervention with juvenile offenders, a creative alternative involving youth that have committed offenses and their peers. Local teenagers trained by volunteer professionals conduct the punishment phase of class C misdemeanors. A prepared list of community services assists in the sentencing and focuses on restitution to the community and involvement in positive activities. Teenagers cannot easily discount the feedback of their peers. Sentences also include the expectation that offenders will then play a future role participating in the Peer Court. In this way, youth are given a constructive role in
the community. Seminars are included to provide guidance and instruction in relevant areas for participating youth. Youth and families referred to Peer Court are screened for other risk factors and offered other services and resources. Since it began in 1995, more than 300 youth have been through Peer Court with 208 cases tried and 138 have completed their sentences. 184 local teenagers have served as trained volunteers. Of the more than 80 cases completing their sentence in 1995, none of the participants have become repeat offenders.
Truancy Abatement and Burglary Suppression Program: Truants are another group identified as needing early intervention. These youth are at increased risk for engaging in delinquent acts and dropping out of school. The Island Youth Advisory Board supported and the Galveston City Council passed a daytime curfew for youth during the school year. It is not enough to just pick up youth and return them to home or school. Island Youth Programs established the Truancy Abatement and Burglary Suppression Program or TABS. This program provides identification and follow-up for truants. Under this program, youth picked up by the police for violation of the curfew will not be arrested. If they do not have a valid reason to be out of school then they will be taken to the TABS center. A coordinator provides screening and counseling. Parents are then contacted to pick up their child and return them to school or home. Reasons contributing to the truancy are identified and services offered in coordination with school liaison. The youth and family will also be referred to other resources, including youth activities. The TABS program has worked with 550 truancy cases since the program started. Improvement with reduced truancy is indicated by the number of truants processed dropping from 94 for April and May of 1995 to 29 for April and May of 1997. The overall monthly average of truancy cases has fallen from 50 to 20.
Administration: The Island Youth Advisory Board meets every other month to review the progress of programs, facilitate coordination with other efforts and continue to develop and improve community programs to reduce youth violence. Members include the Mayor, Chief of Police, School Superintendent, School Board President, County Sheriff, Juvenile Court Judge, Boys & Girls Club President, City Parks and Recreation Director and representative from a local family group. Galveston County Sheriff Joe Max Taylor is chairman. Membership maintains representation of the involved agencies and groups through elections or appointments of those community leadership positions. The University of Texas Medical Branch provides administrative coordination for the project with Christopher R. Thomas, MD serving as director. Support for specific programs is arranged through subcontracts between the University and the involved agencies. Expenditures are documented and accounts prepared as needed for funding agencies and the Island Youth Advisory Board.
2. When was the program created and why?
In November, 1993, community leaders representing City government, law enforcement, juvenile justice, public recreation, public schools, the University of Texas Medical Branch and local families concerned about youth violence formed the Island Youth Advisory Board. This group identified poor individual social skills, lack of positive relationships and activities, and dysfunctional families as important risk factors contributing to violent behavior in our youth. Discussions and review of other efforts resulted in 1994 with the creation of the Island Youth Programs.
3. How do you measure the program's effectiveness?
The University of Texas Medical Branch conducts evaluation of the project with Dr. Thomas as principal investigator. Analysis considers impact, outcome and process utilizing information collected from official sources, agency records and participants in programs. Official data include juvenile crime statistics and school behavioral reports. Agency records provide data on programs and participants. Participants in specific programs are interviewed and information about them collected from other sources. Consent is obtained and confidentiality maintained on all individual information. Baseline information including targeted risk factors comprises official statistics and information collected about participants upon entering programs. Impact and outcome are based on follow-up data. A federal certificate of confidentiality was obtained to assure individual participants privacy would be protected and the means to share information between agencies.
Arrests for all juvenile crime have decreased since the initiation of the Island Youth Programs. These decreases are greater than national and regional trends.
Juvenile Arrests for the City of Galveston:
The juvenile arrests for 1997 were the lowest in a decade and they continue to decline in 1998.
4. How is the program financed?
Federal, state and private foundation grants have provided funding for the overall project and individual programs. The board has not needed independent nonprofit status in order to apply for grants but relied on one or more of the involved groups to submit applications. The partnerships between agencies in grant applications increased their strength. The variety of agencies involved allows a greater range of funding sources and reduced competition between groups seeking support in the local community.
5. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?
Community involvement is considered key in the project. Programs seek either direct participation in activities or administration. Community response is also an important part of the ongoing evaluation effort. The project overall seeks community opinion through the Island Youth Advisory Board. The response to specific programs is enthusiastic although the community does not seem to recognize the individual programs are actually part of a larger effort.
6. Contact person:
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.