Since no gang-prevention or intervention programs meet the standards for effectiveness promulgated by Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development, the current study conducted a randomized controlled trial of a well‐known program Functional Family Therapy which was modified to address the needs of gang‐involved adolescents.
The study yielded two main findings. First, youth at high risk for gang membership and their families engaged with and successfully completed the program at the same level as low‐gang‐risk youth. Second, the effectiveness results varied by gang‐risk status. For youth at high risk for gang membership, the treatment group had significantly lower recidivism rates at the 18‐month follow‐up compared with a "treatment as usual" control group. For youth at low risk for gang membership, however, no consistent differences were found between the treated and control groups. The study concluded that modifying and extending evidence‐based delinquency programs to gang‐involved youth seems to be a reasonable strategy for developing a wider array of effective programs to respond to the challenge of street gangs. The differential findings by gang‐risk status suggest that the juvenile justice system should expand the use of evidence‐based community programs to higher risk youth, including those identified as being "at risk" because of their gang involvement. (Publisher abstract modified)