Chapter 2: Policy And Program Development For Serving Female Juvenile Delinquents|
What Is The Process For Program Development?
Whether a program for girls is conceived on the local or state level, it is essential that it begin with a realistic assessment of an organization's or system's capacity and desire to provide an effective gender-specific program. Comprehensive programs, while generally the most effective, tend to be costly. Key questions to address at the beginning of program development include:
An effective program clearly defines its target population. No one program model will be effective for all girls, and not every community faces the same issues or has the same population. Program planning should include:
Vision and mission statements that guide program direction. What behaviors can the program systematically address? What risk factors can the program address in a gender-specific framework? What are the program's targeted issues and concerns? Who is the program designed to serve? What does the program hope to achieve?
Program goals: Program goals clearly state the intended results of the program. For example, a program that incorporates gender-specific programming for girls should foster positive gender identity development during adolescence, enhance those protective factors likely to build resiliency, curb negative behaviors, nurture girls' personal and social competence and enhance their self-esteem.
Program objectives: Objectives are specific, concrete statements of what needs to be accomplished to implement a goal. Programs that focus on measurable, clear, and focused objectives (i.e., reducing teen pregnancy rates in targeted population) will have more impact than a program with an overly broad goal, however admirable (i.e., "helping girls feel good").
Organization and management: Planning should address how the organization is to be structured, what type of personnel should comprise management, and issues related to staff training and expertise. The importance that girls place on relationships needs to be kept in mind during program design and planning. Gender-specific programs create opportunities for girls to build healthy, positive relationships with staff. All staff, including those involved in non-counseling roles such as transportation or food service, should have opportunities to form positive relationships with girls. In addition, organizational plans that encourage teamwork and cooperation by staff will give girls a chance to observe mutual cooperation between adults. (Girls who have grown up in dysfunctional family settings may never have seen models for this behavior.)
Program elements: Program planning should remain flexible to address each individual girl's needs. Even if planning has targeted one age group, for example, individuals within that group may differ greatly in their emotional, physical, social, and academic development.
Staff development and training: In the past, delinquent girls have been fit into a justice system designed primarily to serve boys' needs. As a result, even experienced staff may not have received gender-specific training. Program planning should include preservice and ongoing inservice training for staff.
Evaluation strategy: Given the lack of research in this area, new programs for girls need to be evaluated not only to enhance program implementation but also to increase knowledge in the field. Evaluation is not an afterthought. It needs to be addressed during the program planning stage and be ongoing. Evaluation can help work out the "nuts and bolts" of a new program and indicate needed adjustments.