Model Programs for High-Risk Youth

The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) has long recognized the importance of minimizing risk and maximizing resiliency factors in children’s lives to prevent potential involvement with alcohol and drugs. But, many children live in precarious environments and need all the help they can get in order to lead healthy and productive lives. These children, identified by CSAP as youth at high risk for substance abuse, have one or more of the following factors in common:

• Parents who abuse alcohol and drugs
• Physical, sexual, or psychological abuse
• Truancy
• Teen pregnancy
• Economic disadvantage
• Neighborhood crime and violence
• Pre-adolescent and adolescent gang activity
• Involvement in violence or delinquency
• Suicide attempts or other mental health
• Placement in institutions, foster care, or
runaway/ homeless shelters

In order to learn more about ways to help these youths avoid substance abuse, CSAP initiated its High-Risk Youth Demonstration Grant Program, which was active from 1987 until 1995. CSAP awarded 130 grants to community based organizations, universities, and local agencies in the program’s first year.

Services offered by grantees helped parents, their children, and entire communities learn the skills to resist or cease using alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs.

Many programs were successful in reducing the prevalence of substance use among youth in high-risk environments. Furthermore, these demonstration programs underscored the crucial need for young people to be involved in caring and supportive relationships, such as those involving mentors, peer groups, families, and communities. The human connection – the attention and time spent with youth – helps guide children in the right direction and creates buffers that help shield them from their high-risk environments. From the High-Risk Youth Demonstration Grant Program, some programs emerged as models, that is, well implemented, rigorously evaluated, effective programs that could be adapted for use in other communities. Following are brief descriptions of the eight model programs:

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