YOUTH OUTREACH UNIT
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The City of Blue Springs has a population of approximately 50,000 people and is located 20 miles east of Kansas City, Missouri. Although the overall crime rate for the Kansas City metropolitan area is reported to be declining, youth crime is still a major concern. According to the 1996/97 Report Card and Data Briefing Book on the Status of Kansas City Area Children, the greater Kansas City metropolitan area, which includes Blue Springs, is above national average in several problem areas. Violent crimes, failure to complete high school, alcohol use, and drug use among teens are reported to be higher than the national average. The influence of drugs and violence has greatly affected the youth in our community. The Blue Springs R-IV School district services more than 12,800 students from Blue Springs, Leeís Summit, Independence, and rural Jackson County. The negative influences of drugs and crime place these youth "at risk" of becoming involved in criminal behavior, drug use, and gang activities, as victims, perpetrators, or both.
It was for these fundamental reasons that the Youth Outreach Unit was created in February of 1994. The unit initially consisted of one (1) Unit Administrator, one (1) Counselor, two (2) D.A.R.E. Officers, and one (1) CLEEO Officer who provided services as a Resource Officer to two (2) high schools. The Youth Outreach Unit has since added additional personnel in response to the growing demand for youth services.
The Youth Outreach Unit now brings together a committed team of fifteen professionals with extensive training and experience in prevention services and youth intervention as well as providing or referring to supportive services. This team has received State, National, and International attention and recognition as a model for community-based services to youth and families. The Youth Outreach Unitís seven key components impact our community and school district through:
Individual members of the Youth Outreach Unit bring a combined total of over 140 years experience and have developed specialized expertise in a variety of areas. The Youth Outreach Unit brings this accumulation of knowledge together in a team format. The strengths of each team member compliments one another and add to the flexibility of the unit.
The mission of the Youth Outreach Unit is to provide services to children and families in crisis, respond to youth who are engaged in life threatening or criminal behaviors, empower young people to make healthy lifestyle choices, and to act as a partner with the citizens and community providers in Blue Springs who make a positive impact in the lives of young people.
The Youth Outreach Unit focuses on prevention, problem solving, crisis intervention, and networking community support services for the community of Blue Springs. We believe children are the future of Blue Springs and prevention is better than reaction. Early intervention at the small needs level is the key!
2. How is the community involved in the program?
The Youth Outreach Unit impacts the community in many ways. The unit has numerous presentation modules, conducts "one on one" contacts, delivers family intervention, takes hundreds of at risk youth from the twenty one schools into the Youth Outreach Unit program which help deter youth who are at early stages of criminal activity. This effort effects the entire community through a reduction in the youth crime rate, as well as deterring behaviors that may lead to repeated criminal activity lasting into adult life. By working with both the children in the schools, and the community in Crime Prevention and through Community Presentations, the Youth Outreach Unit is also able to address issues that transfer from school settings into neighborhood settings, fights, threats, etcetera, or neighborhood problems that turn into problems at school. This method of interaction with youth and community has been very beneficial in resolving conflicts that previously have been difficult to address. It has also demonstrated tremendous success in lowering and reducing gang involvement.
3. How is the program funded?
Funding for the Youth Outreach Program comes through a wide variety of sources including, State and Federal Grants, funding from the City of Blue Springs, the Blue Springs R-IV School District, and the generous funding of private community donors.
4. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?
Youth Outreach Unit evaluations led to the development of a consistent protocol for interventions and service delivery within the community. Training continues to be focused at meeting needs identified through this on going evaluation process. A Youth Outreach Unit study was completed which identified a 93% success rate in positively affecting youth and families over the last four years. The school district has made referrals to the Youth Outreach Unit a required part of the youth evaluation and intervention component throughout all their schools.
The Youth Outreach Unit (Y.O.U.) has not solved every youth problem in Blue Springs. What we have done is built a collaborative team of police, school, mental health professionals, courts, and community resources to offer families a positive alternative to traditional services. The Youth Outreach Unit currently maintains 215 outside agency resources which can be utilized when necessary. Youth Outreach Unit team members have taken the initiative to make a difference in the life of a child. Traditional systems have said that when dealing with delinquency, drug use, gangs, and status offenses with youth, a 40% recidivism rate is considered successful. For the unit, any child failing is not acceptable. An outside agency recently completed a two year study on our effectiveness. We found a 93% success rate with the youth we serve. Our challenge is to improve that rate to a level where no child "lost" is seen as acceptable. The indicators of Youth Outreach Unit impact in the community, and on improving the quality of life, come from the families we serve. These are a few examples of the ongoing work done at the Youth Outreach Unit.
The Youth Outreach Unit operates under a community oriented policing philosophy. Community involvement is paramount to its programs and mission. As of May 31, 1998 the Youth Outreach Unit has worked with over 1,219 families and youth in crisis. Youth Outreach Unit presentations to PTAís have instructed over 487 parents on drug and violence issues. Adult teacher buddies are in place in each of the districtís 21 buildings. PASS Days and Kids Congress activities through the Jackson County Schools Collaborative brought teachers, parents, law enforcement, and community members into activities designed to address juvenile crime, conflict mediation, and drug prevention strategies in the community of Blue Springs.
Youth Outreach Unit members have conducted training in the school district and private schools this year reaching 1,042 district staff including:
18 Personal Safety Presentations
8 District Wide Teacher Training Sessions on Drug and Violence Awareness
2 Bus Driver Staff Training on Recognizing Drugs and Drug Behavior Among Youth
2 All District Orientation to the Districtís Student Assistance Program called CHOICES and on the Youth Outreach Unit System and Referral Process to key leadership.
3 training sessions to Principals, Building Coordinators, and new Administrators on District Programs including the Youth Outreach Unit, CHOICES, D.A.R.E., C.L.E.E.O., C.E.O., and the Districtís Crisis Assistance Program. These programs as a part of our continuation of care services are always in place in the community to prevent, reduce, and educate on drug and violence related issues.
Youth Outreach Unit members also attended 5 Prevention Activities for Students and Staff (PASS Days) on Conflict Mediation hosted by the district where we co-facilitated. 241 youth attended Conflict Mediation through PASS Day activities. 25 youth and staff participated in Kids Congress in collaboration with the Jackson County Schools Collaborative.
The Youth Outreach Unit members have conducted classroom presentations for 12,800 Blue Springs R-IV District students in Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.); 960 students in elementary schools; Campus Law Enforcement Education Officer (C.L.E.E.O.) 3,536 students in middle schools; and Campus Education Officers (C.E.O.) 4,043 students in high schools.
The Youth Outreach Unit, through itís crime prevention program," Safe Blue Springs", has conducted over 80 community presentations reaching over 4,100 adults in the community.
The Youth Outreach Unit is continuing to experience growth. As we continue this growth, it is our desire to increasingly involve the community in our programs, and to demonstrate excellence through servant leadership and healthy life style personal modeling.
5. Contact person:
Mark Perkins, Assistant City Administrator, 903 Main, Blue Springs, MO 64015, (816) 228-0110.
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.