I. A National Strategy for Juvenile Delinquency Prevention

1. Overview of the Community Prevention Grants Program

The Community Prevention Grants Program provides communities with the critical ingredients for successful delinquency prevention:

  • A theory-driven, research-based prevention framework

  • The tools, training, and technical assistance needed to bring a community together to build on that framework

  • Local control of program planning and implementation.

With these assets, and seed money to set the process in motion, communities are able to design and implement comprehensive, risk- and protection-focused prevention strategies that encompass all areas of young people's lives -- their families, schools, peers, and communities.

1.1 Key Principles of the Community Prevention Grants Program

A major impetus behind the development of the Title V Community Prevention Grants Program was the National Association of Counties' (NACO) concern that counties had been caught in a cycle of paying the expensive "back-end" costs of the juvenile justice system -- enforcement and treatment. Without an alternate source of Federal funds for more cost-effective "front-end" delinquency prevention strategies, cities and counties would continue to pay the price for sanctions that may have been avoidable. In 1992, NACO testimony before the Subcommittee on Juvenile Justice of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary recommended strategies to help communities develop not only a more balanced response to juvenile crime but also one that could be tailored to their specific local needs.

In the 1992 reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act of 1974, Congress established Title V -- Incentive Grants for Local Delinquency Prevention Programs. Title V created a Federal grants program to fund collaborative, community-based delinquency prevention efforts that integrated six underlying principles:

  • Community control and decision-making -- The Community Prevention Grants Program enables local jurisdictions to assess their own delinquency prevention needs and resources and then design and implement appropriate, sustainable delinquency prevention initiatives.

  • Research foundation for planning -- The program promotes a rational framework for responding to adolescent problem behaviors that is based on decades of juvenile delinquency research (Howell, 1995). Through systematic risk assessments and ongoing data collection activities, communities identify and prioritize areas of risk that warrant delinquency prevention resources and track the outcomes of their delinquency prevention efforts.

  • Comprehensive and multidisciplinary solutions -- To increase the efficacy of delinquency prevention efforts and reduce duplication of services, the program requires that each community designate a Prevention Policy Board, a multidisciplinary planning board including representatives from law enforcement, juvenile justice, education, recreation, social services, private industry, health and mental health agencies, churches, civic organizations, and other youth and family service organizations.

  • Leverage of resources and systems -- While some subgrant awards are relatively small, this seed money can provide both a financial baseand the incentives necessary for local jurisdictions to secure additional resources and implement sustainable delinquency prevention systems in their communities. Local risk and resource assessments lend validity to requests for local and State funding and enable communities to use more effectively the delinquency prevention funds they secure.

  • Evaluation to monitor program success -- At the local level, requisite program evaluation activities enable stakeholders to assess progress, refine their programs, and optimize effectiveness over time. Community members receive the tools needed to assess program outcomes and monitor long-term changes in the prevalence of risk factors and adolescent problem behaviors in the community. In addition, OJJDP is conducting a national evaluation to analyze program results across communities, assess the impact of Federal program dollars, and gather and disseminate information on what does and does not work in delinquency prevention.

  • Long-term perspective -- Perhaps most important, this program does not propose quick-fix solutions to complicated juvenile problems, but rather has adopted a long-term perspective that fosters positive, sustained community change. Short-term efforts must be combined with long-term investments to create healthier and safer neighborhoods over the long run.

In the Community Prevention Grants Program, these fundamental principles are combined to form a strategic approach to reducing juvenile delinquency and provide a sound framework for its practical application.

1.2 A Risk- and Protection-Focused Approach to Delinquency Prevention

The Community Prevention Grants Program is based on a risk- and protection-focused approach to delinquency prevention. This approach maintains that in order to prevent a problem from occurring, the factors that contribute to the development of that problem (i.e., risk factors) and the factors that negate the influence of risk factors (i.e., protective factors) first must be identified. Delinquency prevention programs then must be developed to reduce risk factors and, at the same time, enhance protective factors to buffer children against risk. Such programs maximize the chances of preventing juvenile crime, delinquency, and other related problems (Howell, 1995).

Risk factors for delinquent behavior and youth violence include a number of conditions, attitudes, or behaviors that increase the likelihood that a child will develop delinquent behaviors in adolescence, leading to crime and arrest. Risk factors exist in several domains, including the community, school, family, and peer group, as well as within the individual. Examples of risk factors include the availability of drugs in the community, extreme economic and social deprivation, family conflict, favorable parental and peer attitudes toward problem behaviors, academic failure, lack of commitment to school, and alienation and rebelliousness (Developmental and Research Programs, 1996). A list of risk factors that studies have linked to unhealthy adolescent behaviors is included in the Appendix.

Balancing risk factors are protective factors -- aspects of individuals' lives that counter risk factors or buffer against them. These factors protect juveniles either by reducing the impact of risks or by changing the way a person responds to risks (e.g., increasing a child's resilience). Ultimately, they can help promote positive behavior, health, well-being, and personal success. Examples of protective factors include a resilient temperament and naturalsociability, positive adult and peer relationships that promote bonding, as well as healthy beliefs and clear standards (Developmental and Research Programs, 1996).

Generalizations regarding risk and protective factors have significant implications for community prevention planning and development. Research (Howell, 1995) reveals that:

  • Risks exist in multiple domains (community, family, school, individual/peer).

  • Common risk factors predict diverse behavior problems.

  • The more risk factors present, the greater the risk for juvenile problem behavior.

  • Risk factors have consistent effects across different races and cultures.

  • Protective factors can help buffer exposure to risks.

The implication of the research is clear: if the risks in young people's lives can be reduced or countered with protective factors, the possibility of preventing adolescent problem behaviors associated with those risks is greatly increased.

Strategies that work to reduce known risk factors and enhance protective factors have gained widespread acceptance among researchers and practitioners as an effective approach for preventing delinquency and other juvenile problem behaviors. Several risk- and protection-focused delinquency prevention models have been proposed that differ slightly in scope, emphasis, and terminology, including, for example, the Benson Asset Model (Benson, Galbraith, & Espeland, 1994), the Health Realization model (Benard, 1991), Pransky's Prevention Pyramid (Pransky, 1991), and Communities That Care (Developmental Research and Programs, 1994). OJJDP selected the risk- and protection-focused approach used in the Communities That Care (CTC) strategy as its delinquency prevention training model because of its strong empirical basis and systematic approach to community-based, collaborative assessment and planning. Based on 30 years of research on factors associated with adolescent problem behaviors, this risk- and protection-focused approach incorporates only those risk factors that have been demonstrated to predict the development of a problem behavior and stresses the need for programs that enhance protective factors to buffer high-risk juveniles from the impact of risk factors. This approach provides an overall conceptual framework that facilitates community-wide involvement in assessing risk and protective factors and planning delinquency prevention programs that respond to these locally identified factors. Although communities are not required to apply the CTC strategy, it is well-suited to support communities in their implementation of the Community Prevention Grants Program.

1.3 The Structure of the Community Prevention Grants Program

The Community Prevention Grants Program structure is designed to provide communities with a guiding framework for building healthy communities in an objective, systematic, and comprehensive manner. The program grant award process -- as set forth in the final Program Guideline in the Federal Register, August 1, 1994 (Volume 59, Number 146) -- authorizes the State to award grant funds to units of general local government and allows for broad local discretion in applying funds toward community-based delinquency prevention activities tailored to the needs of the specific locality. In conjunction with the grant award process, OJJDP has awarded a contract to provide national training and technical assistance to help communities that wish to build their capacity in delinquency prevention planning and implementation. The program's grant award process and capacity-building activities are illustrated in Exhibit 1.

Exhibit 1
The Program Grant Award Process

Exhibit 1

The Grant Award Process

Program funds are distributed to local communities in a two-step process. In the first funding step, OJJDP awards grants to States to be transmitted through their State Advisory Groups (SAG) to units of general local government, defined as any city, county, town, borough, parish, village, or other general purpose political subdivision of a State, and any Indian tribe that performs law enforcement functions. As provided by Section 223(a)(3) of the JJDP Act, the SAG is an advisory board appointedby the Governor with 15 to 33 members who have training, experience, or special knowledge concerning the prevention and treatment of juvenile delinquency or the administration of juvenile justice. Statutory responsibilities of the SAG include participating in the preparation and administration of the State's juvenile justice plan, advising the Governor and legislators on responding to juvenile justice needs, and reviewing grant applications related to juvenile justice and delinquency prevention.

Each State, as well as the District of Columbia and U.S. Commonwealths and Territories (subsequently, "the States"), is eligible to apply for program funds provided that it has a State agency designated by the chief executive under Section 299(c) of the JJDP Act and a SAG, as described above. Program grant amounts are based on a formula determined by the State's population of youth who are subject to original juvenile court delinquency jurisdiction under State law, with a minimum award level of $100,000 for States and $33,000 for Commonwealths and Territories in fiscal year 1997.

In the second funding step, the State agency, with concurrence of the SAG, awards subgrants to units of general local government through a competitive process. In order to be eligible to apply for a subgrant from the State, a unit of general local government must first:

  • Receive SAG certification of compliance with the JJDP Act core requirements.

  • Convene or designate a local Prevention Policy Board.

  • Submit a 3-year, comprehensive delinquency prevention plan to the State.

  • Provide a 50 cents-on-the-dollar match, either cash or in-kind, of the subgrant award amount.

SAGs may establish additional eligibility criteria for subgrant awards in their States based on criteria related to juvenile crime or other indications of need (e.g., jurisdictions with above-average violent crime rates).

Local applicants' comprehensive delinquency prevention plans are required to include:

  • The designation of a Prevention Policy Board, consisting of 15 to 21 members representing a balance of public agencies, nonprofit organizations, private business and industry, at-risk youth, and parents.

  • Evidence of key community leaders' support for the delinquency prevention effort.

  • Definition of the boundaries of the program's targeted neighborhood or community.

  • An assessment of the community's readiness to adopt a comprehensive risk-focused delinquency prevention strategy.

  • An assessment of baseline data related to risk factors prevalent in the community.

  • An identification of available resources and promising approaches that address identified risk factors and an assessment of gaps in existing services.

  • A strategy for mobilizing the community to implement delinquency prevention activities.

  • A strategy for obtaining and coordinating identified resources to implement promising approaches that address priority risk factors and strengthen protective factors.

  • A plan describing how program funds and matching resources will be used to accomplish stated goals and objectives.

  • A description of the Prevention Policy Board's program management role.

  • A plan for collecting performance and outcome evaluation data.

Local applications are assessed by the SAG for inclusion and quality of each of these elements.

The grant application process requires data collection and thorough assessments of community readiness, risks, and resources before delinquency prevention strategies are developed and funded. These assessments form the basis for an empirically-based plan to implement and/or expand community-based programs and services for children, youth, and families.

As a consequence of the locally-driven assessment and planning processes, the type, scope, and combination of programs and services implemented vary from community to community. While one community may respond to its risk profile and resource gaps by implementing a family support program, another may identify the need to implement after-school recreation services and youth leadership development activities; yet another may focus on a widespread media campaign to mobilize the community to reduce risks youth face. Each community creates, in essence, a unique delinquency prevention initiative tailored to the specific conditions, risk profiles, and existing resources in that community.

Community Capacity Building: Training, Technical Assistance, and Evaluation Support

To support communities in conducting quality risk and resource assessments and developing sound delinquency prevention plans, OJJDP continues to offer training and technical assistance to States andcommunities across the country. State Juvenile Justice Specialists, who are responsible for administering juvenile justice grants at the State level, coordinate the provision of training and technical assistance to interested communities in their States. The training and technical assistance are designed to enhance participating communities' ability to plan, develop, and implement risk- and protection-focused delinquency prevention strategies.

The program training is delivered in two phases. The first phase -- The Key Leader Orientation (KLO) -- consists of a 1-day workshop that orients key community leaders and high-level executives to the principles of risk- and protection-focused delinquency prevention. The second phase of training -- The Risk and Resource Assessment (RRA) -- is a 3-day "hands-on" workshop for members of the community's Prevention Policy Board on how to conduct community risk and resource assessments, including data collection and analysis. Both phases are based on the Communities That Care model.

OJJDP also makes technical assistance available to States and communities on an as-needed basis. Assistance is available to strengthen the conceptual understanding of the risk-focused prevention model that was presented in the training sessions, provide information related to other risk- and protection/resiliency-focused prevention models, or to help with technical aspects of planning or implementing delinquency prevention strategies.

In addition to supporting States and communities in planning and implementing their delinquency prevention strategies, OJJDP has provided a valuable source of evaluation assistance with its Title V Community Self-Evaluation Workbook. The Workbook consists of easy-to-complete forms and step-by-step instructions that guide communities through evaluation activities in three key areas:

  • Documenting community mobilization efforts,planning and decision-making processes, organizational structure, delinquency prevention plans, and resource allocations.

  • Monitoring implementation of new programs and community-change projects.

  • Tracking changes in community statistics that measure risk levels and adolescent problem behaviors.

The Workbook also provides information about how to analyze and use evaluation data to improve program operation and services to youth. It provides the framework and tools subgrantees need to determine where they are in relation to their delinquency prevention goals and objectives and to measure their progress in decreasing risk factors and improving community conditions. The Workbook is available through the Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse and OJJDP's official Internet site in both three-ring binder and electronic formats.2 In addition, OJJDP has provided training to State Juvenile Justice Specialists in the use of the Workbook at regional meetings of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, the national organization representing State Advisory Groups. Each evaluation workshop is designed to familiarize the Specialists with the Workbook features and to address specific areas of evaluation interest or need. Additional evaluation training, available to States upon request, has been provided to several States' Title V subgrantees.

The Workbook not only assists communities in conducting local program evaluations, it also provides the standardized data collection instruments that form the basis for OJJDP's national evaluation of the Community Prevention Grants Program, which is described in the following section.

1.4 National Evaluation of the CommunityPrevention Grants Program Implementation and Outcomes

OJJDP is currently conducting a long-term, national-level evaluation of the impact of the Community Prevention Grants Program on juvenile delinquency and other adolescent problem behaviors. The evaluation design incorporates the state of the art in evaluating comprehensive program initiatives, is based on input from the leading experts in the country on designing and conducting such evaluations, draws extensively on existing data sources and data collection instruments, and incorporates technical assistance to build State and local capacity for ongoing evaluation of local Title V initiatives.

The national evaluation is intended to examine the viability and effectiveness of the Title V delinquency prevention model. Very broadly, the national evaluation will address the following research questions:

  • What is the impact of the Community Prevention Grants Program on risk factors, protective factors, and juvenile problem behaviors?

  • What factors and activities lead to the effective implementation of the Community Prevention Grants Program model and to positive program outcomes?

To address the research questions, the evaluation is examining the key stages of program implementation at the local level, which include mobilization, assessment and planning, implementation, and institutionalization and monitoring. These stages, illustrated in Exhibit 2, provide a framework for understanding both the process and progress of this long-term delinquency prevention program. The evaluation also is testing the key theories, or assumptions, on which the program model is based.

Exhibit 2
Implementation Stages of the Title V Community Prevention Grants Program

Exhibit 2

As shown in Exhibit 3, the model assumes that Federal assistance will enhance communities' ability to effectively implement the program model, which will lead to more effective prevention planning processes, which will lead to the implementation of community prevention programs and approaches that reduce risk and enhance protective factors, and, thus, ultimately will reduce delinquency and related problem behaviors, such as teenage pregnancy and substance abuse.

The evaluation design consists of three interrelated levels:

  • Level I: A basic profile of Community Prevention Grants Program communities in the participating States and Territories (e.g., number and amount of awards), which will provide a general description of the distribution of Title V funds and activity across the country.

  • Level II: An assessment of implementation and outcome characteristics in all or most of the participating Community Prevention Grants Program communities in six States based on information collected using the Workbook.

  • Level III: An assessment of the efficacy of the Title V model through intensive case studies of the implementation processes and the links between activities and outcomes in 12 Community Prevention Grants Program communities (2 in each of the 6 Level II States).

Exhibit 3
National Evaluation Design: testing the Title V Model

Exhibit 3

This three-level evaluation design allows the investigation to move from broad descriptions of the Title V Program in every community to increasingly detailed investigations of program implementation and outcomes. The design also helps build the sites' capacity to conduct their own evaluations, with the most in-depth assistance taking place in the Level III communities. This approach is designed to maximize evaluation resources, develop knowledge, and help build the capacity of the communities to participate actively in the long-term monitoring and assessment of their delinquency prevention efforts.

Overall, this national evaluation strategy will result in:

  • An ongoing description and characterization of the Community Prevention Grants Program grants in all participating States and Territories.

  • An assessment of the extent to which community risk-focused delinquency prevention has been implemented in the Community Prevention Grants Program communities, including an understanding of what community planning processes were undertaken, which risk factors were addressed, what interventions were carried out, what target populations were served, and the magnitude and intensity of the services provided, as well as the impact of the Community Prevention Grants Program on trends in indicators of risk and rates of juvenile problem behaviors.

  • An increased understanding of the processes involved in effective implementation of the Community Prevention Grants Program model and a test of the theoretical causal links between the risk-focused delinquency prevention model and community-wide impacts.

The evaluation will not only help guide OJJDP in refining this risk- and protection-focused prevention model, but also will add to the growing body ofresearch on juvenile delinquency and effective delinquency prevention strategies. Already initiated in the State of Michigan, evaluation activities will soon be under way in the other five participating States as well.

2. For more information on the Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse and OJJDP's official Web site, see page 57.

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1997 Report to Congress: Title V Incentive Grants for Local Delinquency Prevention Programs