Over the recent past, juvenile delinquency has been a hotly contested issue in the city of Centervale. This has been attributed to the continuous upsurge of criminal activities. As indicated in the official data, there is an increase of status offenses particularly curfew and truancy. The city’s police department has also reported that numbers of minor arrests involving vandalism, larceny, illegal entry and assault has consistently increased. Juvenile offending has also seen a rapid rise in the number of incidents involving female offenders.
The local residents have developed an assumption that children have gone out of control. Despite juvenile justice efforts such as the juvenile court, diversion program and community correction facilities, a specific program focusing on the preventing juvenile delinquency issue has not been initiated. This paper discusses the juvenile delinquency prevention program to be implemented in Centervale focusing on the family prevention strategies and theories. It will also discuss its implementation and evaluation process.
Family support program
In response to the calls to have a juvenile delinquency prevention program, an evidence-based approach; family support program is proposed. The family support program offers both primary and secondary prevention efforts. One major influence on the lives of youth and children is the family environment in which they are raised up. A good number of research studies have been conducted, documenting the significance of family in delinquency prevention efforts and other related issues, positive development and health improvement. Poor child-parent relations and parenting skills frequently lead to an array of negative consequences for children and youth. On most occasions they end up getting involved in delinquent and, or risk taking activities such as truancy, larceny or theft, and underage drinking.
This family support program is an important prevention approach for Centervale city since it focuses on realizing the following objectives:
Like other evidence based prevention family programs; such as the universal Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Youth 10 to 14(Eckenrode, Izzo & Campa-Muller, 2002), the Centervale family support program would emphasize on parenting practices.
In order to realize the stated objectives, the program would be implemented in two related approaches namely the home visitation strategy and the parent education or training approach.
Home visitation program
The home visitation strategy has become increasingly accepted as an effective strategy to family oriented prevention programs. Previous research studies indicate that approximately half a million young people in the US are enrolled in one form of home visitation program or the other (Rapoport & Oʹ Brien-Strain, 2001) majorly, home visitation initiatives are projected towards beginner mothers or all other when the child is still an infant.
The home visitation initiative would focus on improving the pregnancy effects, enhancing child development, minimizing stress related to parental practices, bring child maltreatment to an end, and enhancing effective parenting practices. Although the home visitation is not immediately linked to the prevention of delinquent behaviors, various studies have indicated that they potentially reduce the problematic consequences related to parenting while at the same time improving the lives of the children and the mothers (Olds et. al, 1998).
Home visitation initiatives differ distinctively across various dimensions ranging from the target population, expected outcomes, durations, services rendered and the intensity of the programs. Nevertheless all approaches of home visitation share similar assumptions. First, parents have an imperative role to play in the development and welfare of the children. Secondly, the best approach to the delinquency prevention efforts is early intervention and support of parents. Lastly, training and resources should be directly provided to families instead of having families seek them by themselves.
The home visitation initiative will be implemented in a comprehensive approach targeting environmental and parental health, care giving capabilities, positive maternal development and social support. The strategy will make use of professional nurses as home visitors who will move from home to home. The home visitors will support mothers help guiding them to get off to a good start in the initial and critical stages of parenthood. For an effective result, the home visits will begin as soon as after the child is born and would take duration of approximately two years after the child’s birth.
Each home visitor will have a case load with a maximum of twenty families to guarantee a substantial intensity of support services. The home visitors will evaluate the needs of each family and offers referral to suitable services within the community. The most important part of its implementation, is that the home visitors will be supervised in groups of eight to ten persons; meeting regularly to deliberate on their clients and seek continuous guidance from their supervisor.
Nevertheless, it is expected that this initiative would be faced by a number of limitations. First, the people might develop resistance to the initiative with the claim that it infringes on their privacies. Secondly, it is expected that the initiative would be subject various debates on its significance and effectiveness.
Parent training and education programs
Previous research studies indicate that parents and other caregivers make a crucial influence in the promotions of proper child development and minimization of problematic consequences such as drug abuse, delinquency and violence. Majority of the academician consent to the assumption that a positive family setting composed of parental supervision: supportive communication, objective guidance and rules, and consistent discipline, is a major cause youths are not involved in delinquent behaviors (Kumpfer & Alvarado, 2003). In response to the calls for prevention, there is need to develop a parent training and education program for the city in order to ensure that parents offer the appropriate guidance and protection to their children.
Parent education and training initiative are skill focused and behavioral in nature and are usually categorized into training for parents, and training for the parents and their children. The parent-only oriented approach involves capabilities which are directed at conveying affective, behavior and cognitive changes in parents. Parents are trained on ways to advance and improve positive relations with their children, ignore bad behaviors and reward desirable behaviors, and enhance communication and the compliance of the child.
However, this approach is only limited to a certain class of families; with children aged between three to ten years. Thus, the parent training program involving both the parents and children emerged. This type of parent training is effective because it allows the children to learn to manage their emotions and tempers; acknowledge and offer constructive praise or criticism; advance decision-making, problem-solving, communication and peer resistance skills; and build relations with pro-social friends. This training approach also allows children and parents to exercise their skills jointly, resulting in an advanced parent-child relation. Furthermore, the approach would also promote the social competence; facilitate positive communication and interactions within families while addressing protective and risky factors of parenting.
As a result, it would be appropriate to implement the parent training program involving both the child and parent, across the city of Centervale. The program will be implemented at all the schools in the city, allowing for families to come together during meal breaks, to have family play time and parent support groups within schools. During these periods, parents would be conducted in iterated process involving a short intensive introductory stage and a long hand on experience on training. For perhaps 8 weeks, the introductory stage will involve intensive intervention by the program champions where parents will be trained on how to build and maintain positive relations with children, and the significance. The next stage would be lengthy depending on the dysfunctional nature of family. It would involve parents involve in the planning of community sessions where parent and children would interact with one another (Hawkins et. al, 1992).
The parent training initiative is anticipated to be limited by the nature of school programs. Since it would involve it being incorporated into the school programs, it may not be compatible or in conformance to the school practices. It may also be subject to resistance form parents.
Since the family support delinquency prevention approach is an evidence based approach, its evaluation would involve experimental (impact) evaluation and cost benefit analysis (Eckenrode, Izzo & Campa-Muller, 2002). The program involves two related initiative which will be evaluated separately. For the case of home visitation initiatives, the experimental evaluation would involve undertaking an observation of families which took part in the program. Youth and children of mother who happened to have received the parenting guidance from the professional home visitors will be cross examined alongside other youth. The evaluation would involve comparison with a control group; where it is expected that the participant’s children would be less involved in delinquent behaviors.
The cost benefit analysis will also be undertaken to evaluate its significance. Although it may be seem expensive since it involves the recruitment of professional home visitors and training, the benefit of home visitation initiative overshadows its cost. Previous analysis undertaken on similar initiatives have reported a reduction in substance abuse by mothers, incidents of child mistreatment, dependence on welfare of during pregnancy, and family sizes; leading to positive family environment.
For the case of parenting training and education programs, an experimental evaluation process will be conducted where participants will be put to scrutiny to determine the effects of the initiative. Long term follows ups will also be conducted on each participant in order to ensure that the initiative remains valuable. The experimental evaluation will use a specific group of non-deviant adolescents or children as the control group and compare various samples of participants. It is expected that the participants will possess low aggression levels, high social skills and academic prowess.
As discussed, the efforts to prevent juvenile delinquency majorly rely on effective parenting practices. The family setting in which children a raised up in, is a major influence on the lives of those children. Therefore it is important to have a positive family environment. In response to the demands for an effective juvenile delinquency prevention programs, a family support program for Centervale has been proposed. If adopted, young people in the city would be less involved in delinquent behaviors as they have been positively raised under the appropriate guidance.
Eckenrode, J., Izzo, C., & Campa-Muller, M. (2002). Early intervention and family support programs. In R.M. Lerner, F. Jacobs, and D. Wertlieb (Eds.), Handbook of Applied Developmental Science (Vol. 2, pp. 161-195). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Hawkins, J., Catalano, R.F., Morrison, D.M., O ʹ Donnell, J., Abbott, R.D., & Day, L.E. (1992). The Seattle Social Development Project: Effects of the first four years on protective factors and problem behaviors. In J. McCord and R.E. Tremblay (Eds.), Preventing antisocial behavior: Interventions from birth through adolescence. New York: Guilford Press.
Kumpfer, K.L. & Alvarado, R. (2003). Family-strengthening approaches for the prevention of youth problem behaviors. American Psychologist, 58 (6), 457-465.
Olds, D., Henderson, C.R., Jr., Cole, R., Eckenrode, J., Kitzman, H., Luckey, D et al. (1998). Long-term effects of nurse home visitation on childrenʹ s criminal and antisocial behavior. Journal of the American Medical Association, 280(14), 1238-1244.
Rapoport, D. & Oʹ Brien-Strain, M. (2001). In-home visitation programs: A review of the literature. Retrieved October 31, 2013, from http://www.sphereinstitute.org/publications/OCProp10LitRev.pdf