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$3.1m Study Focuses on Maine Youth Intervention Programs
Maine communities using “developmental assets” chosen for pioneering study
July 17, 2008
AUGUSTA – Twelve community-based youth intervention sites in Maine will be the subjects of a $3.1 million national research study into the effectiveness of an innovative approach to preventing substance abuse and other poor outcomes for youth. The twelve are among 65 Communities for Children and Youth statewide, state-local partnerships developed through the work of the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, chaired by First Lady Karen Baldacci.
The RAND Corp. study, conducted in concert with the Search Institute, will examine the sites’ use of two comprehensive and complementary programs – “Getting to Outcomes” and “Developmental Assets”. The programs are tools that help communities look at a variety of “developmental assets” such as family support, caring neighborhoods, high expectations, and caring school climate and seek to create or improve programs that support those assets. The Communities have helped create mentoring, early childhood services, after-school enrichment and other programs. The Governor’s Children’s Cabinet has supported the Communities with one of the largest contingents of AmeriCorps Vista volunteers in the United States working to help the Communities implement the various projects.
In addition to funding for the research itself, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) grant will pay for two full-time people to provide technical assistance over five years to the Communities participating in the study. In addition, the grant will provide direct financial assistance to the 12 Communities involved, research funds to the University of Southern Maine, and administrative support to the Children’s Cabinet to conduct the study. Preliminary results of the research are expected in three years.
“RAND and the Search Institute chose Maine because of our Communities’ pioneering work using the developmental assets model, and because of the relationships we have fostered with national experts and organizations on this work,” Mrs. Baldacci said. “We believe this study will show that while individual programs can certainly have positive outcomes for youth, the biggest gains can be found when communities as a whole take a multi-pronged approach to address the needs of youth – from creating safe neighborhoods to building relationships between youth and adults, to enforcement and mentoring – and ensuring that everyone is working in partnership.”
Susan Savell of the Children’s Cabinet and head of the Communities for Youth and Children initiative, negotiated Maine’s participation in the study. The results will benefit Maine’s efforts and national efforts, she said.
“A lot of evidence shows certain interventions work, like reducing access to alcohol,” she said. “We want to test whether intentional building of the 40 developmental assets is also an effective approach.
“If we can show this developmental assets approach is effective in preventing substance abuse, it will open the door for communities all over the country to receive funding for this work. Social science research has shown a correlation between a high number of developmental assets and positive, healthy behavior; we think this study will show not only a correlation, but a direct positive impact on the reduction of substance abuse,” Savell said.
Other speakers included: Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe; Morgan Mitchell, a student leader from Boothbay; Brenda Harvey, commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services; Mary Ackerman of the Search Institute; Aleta Meyer of NIDA; and Matt Chinman of the RAND Corp.
Chinman said Maine was chosen because the communities are ready, passionate, and doing good work. He said he believed the developmental assets approach can be effective in Maine.
In the first three years of the study, RAND and the Search Institute will provide technical assistance to six of the 12 Communities as well as funding to help them continue and build on the developmental assets approach. The other six communities will be a “control group,” in order to compare the effectiveness of the new approach to that of Communities not actively focusing on it. The control group will receive some funding but not with the intent of focusing on the new approach. After three years, those six communities will also receive additional technical assistance from RAND and the Search Institute.
The 12 Communities for Children and Youth partners participating in the study are in: Kittery/Eliot/York, Old Orchard Beach, Portland, Boothbay, Skowhegan, Waldo County, Bucksport, Ellsworth, Oxford Hills, Augusta, Waterville, and Bangor.
The Children’s Cabinet is a multi-agency collaborative of Maine’s departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Public Safety, Corrections and Labor. Chaired by First Lady Karen Baldacci, the commissioners of each of the five agencies, as well as staff from the Governor’s Office, make up the Children’s Cabinet.
The RAND Corporation is a nationally-renowned nonprofit research institution that works in a broad spectrum of areas, including education, health, law, science and national security. The Search Institute is a national research and publishing company focusing on positive child and youth development, as well as community mobilization strategies.
Susan Savell, Children’s Cabinet, 207-462-5088 David Connerty-Marin, Director of Communications, Maine Department of Education, 207-624-6880
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