Children's depression and poor relationships with parents are greater threats than peer pressure
kids are the hardest to help, there's at least one program that seems to have succeeded: the High/Scope Curriculum, funded by the Foundation of the same name. According to their most recent follow-up, over 70 percent of the inner-city kids stayed away from drug dealing compared to their peers. Even better, the benefits continue to last well into adulthood: the latest report examines the subjects at age 27. And amazingly, the program isn't even a new breakthrough in dealing with troubled teens -- it's a preschool program for children 3 to 4 years old that began in 1962.
What went right? Unfortunately, we don't know. It seems doubtful that pre-school training would have much influence on behavior almost a quarter-century later. One factor may have been the weekly 90 minute home visits with the parents. These meetings focused on the child's development -- in essence, teaching parents how to parent. Another factor may have been the social and educational value of the preschool program. If high-risk children start on an even-footing with the rest of their classmates, they're less likely to devalue the benefits of education. And if they can be assimilated into normal school culture, they're less likely to snub their noses at being "normal."
These explanations match the risk factors identified by Dr. Denise Kandel of Columbia University, who has studied the topic for twenty years. Kandel has found that children's depression and poor relationships with parents are greater threats than peer pressure. Children who do well in school are less likely to be depressed, and better trained parents translates into a more stable home life for the children.
Another program often mentioned by researchers as successful is "The Door," a program found only in New York City. A youth center offering 30 coordinated services in one building, adolescents are encouraged to drop by and talk about their problems in groups or with trained counselors without fear of consequences. Services are free, and no one is ever turned away.
Using non-threatening enticements such as special events, arts, and recreation, The Door is well received by adolescents, more than half of whom learn about the program from friends. Because many of the children are school dropouts, The Door offers educational classes in addition to counseling and other services. The 25-member full-time staff includes teachers, lawyers, physicians, social workers, psychologists, and artists.
The cost of helping the 6,000 children who use The Door annually is underwritten by a public-private partnership that includes Citibank as the primary corporate sponsor. The average cost per child per year is $1,300. By contrast, a child in the California school system receives about $84 of drug education services.
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