Academic journal article Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology

If at First You Don't Succeed ... Keep Trying: Strategies to Enhance Coalition/ School Partnerships to Implement School-Based Prevention Programming

Academic journal article Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology

If at First You Don't Succeed ... Keep Trying: Strategies to Enhance Coalition/ School Partnerships to Implement School-Based Prevention Programming

Article excerpt

Community-based coalitions have been advocated as a promising mechanism to reduce youth involvement in violence, delinquency, and substance use, but coalitions have not always been successful in ensuring widespread adoption of evidence-based prevention strategies. This article describes the strategies used by 12 community coalitions to collaborate with schools to select and implement school-based prevention programs, it includes the barriers to establishing coalition/school partnerships and methods for overcoming these challenges. In this 5-year research project, all communities adopted school-based prevention programs. Coalitions helped achieve this outcome by building relationships with school personnel, fostering champions within the school, creating win/win situations in which schools' needs were addressed, and initiating school-based prevention programs as pilot efforts that were later expanded. While success was achieved in all cases, persistent messaging about the importance of youth problem behaviours was needed to overcome schools' concerns about using academic time to teach prevention messages and replacing current practices with unfamiliar programs. Findings from this study can be used by coalitions and prevention scientists that want to partner with schools to reach a large population of students with effective prevention programming. The results are also of value to researchers and practitioners interested in fostering widespread dissemination of other types of evidence-based programs.

Keywords: adoption, school/community partnerships, coalitions, violence prevention


Youth violence is a major social problem. Given the financial costs to society of youth violence (Aos, Lieb, Mayfield, Miller, & Pennucci, 2004), and evidence that the early onset of violent offending is associated with longer, more frequent, and more violent criminal careers (Farrington, 2003; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [U.S. DHHS], 2001), the prevention of youth violence is both a fiscal and social priority (Homel et al., 1999).

While prevention programs that have been proven effective in reducing youth involvement in violence and delinquent behaviours have been identified (Catalano, Arthur, Hawkins, Berglund, & Olson, 1998; Farrell, Meyer, Kung, & Sullivan, 2001; Homel et al., 1999; U.S. DHHS, 2001), they have not been widely disseminated. In the United States, Kumpfer and Alvarado (2003) estimated that only about 10% of practitioners implement family-focused programs that have evidence of effectiveness, and a national study of schools (Ringwalt, Ennett, Vincus, Thome, Rohrbach, & Simons-Rudolph, 2002) found that 82% reported using drug prevention curricula, but only 27% were implementing programs that had evidence of success in reducing substance use.

Although schools are just one community agency through which prevention programming can occur, school-based programs are appealing because they can target a large proportion of the community's population, thereby increasing the potential to create community-level changes in desired outcomes (Spoth & Greenberg, 2005). Given their broad reach and utilisation of teachers to implement programs, school-based programs can also be cost effective (Aos et al., 2004). Unfortunately, little is known regarding strategies to enhance the dissemination of evidence-based programs in general and school-based efforts in particular. The development and testing of such methods is a priority for prevention research (Glasgow, Lichtenstein, & Marcus, 2003; Pentz, Jasuja, Rohrbach, Sussman, & Bardo, 2006; Saul et al., 2008; Spoth & Greenberg, 2005; Wandersman, 2003). More information is needed regarding attempts to 'bridge science and practice' (Arthur & Blitz, 2000; Saul et al., 2008); that is, to investigate processes through which practitioners gain access to information about tested and effective interventions and decide to put them into everyday use (Cherney & Sutton, 2007). …

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