clear   Chapter 3:   Comprehensive, Gender-Specific Services
What Are The Elements And Features Of Promising Programs?

The specific elements and features of gender-specific programs vary, depending upon such factors as the specific needs of the population being served, the size and scope of the program, and the goals of the sponsoring agency. Promising programs, however, share most of the following elements and features:

1. ORGANIZATION AND MANAGEMENT: Gender-specific programs are organized to create an environment in which girls can make positive life changes. Cohesion and cooperation among staff, for example, can counter chaotic and pathological family experiences many girls bring into treatment (Acoca, 1995). Managing by teamwork gives girls a chance to see adults modeling cooperation, respect, and good communication skills. A case management approach serves girls' needs for connection with a caring adult; consistency; and networking to plan for coordination of services across a continuum of care.

2. STAFFING PATTERN: In reviews of promising programs conducted for this report, the single most favorable aspect was invariably identified as a charismatic or "authentic" program staff. Staff who had "been there" themselves, who "walked the talk," seemed to have a better understanding of the issues girls were facing in their own lives. Girls expressed respect for the real-life experiences of staff members who could communicate on a level the girls could understand. Girls noted their relationships with specific staff members as key factors in their program participation and successful progression.

When possible, staffing should reflect the diversity of the population being served to foster ethnic identity. Many gender-specific programs hire all female staff. Women staff members are important in providing good role models and modeling healthy relationship skills. However, male staff can also provide effective treatment to girls, and both male and female staff will have unique life experiences that can be used positively in their interactions with girls. Many girls may not have had positive experiences with men in the past, especially if they were sexually abused or exploited by males, or if they grew up in households headed by women. In addition to offering positive role models, male staff can provide frank but clear feedback on how some men might perceive females.

3. STAFF TRAINING: For some staff members, gender-specific programming will be a completely new concept. All staff, both male and female, may have preconceived ideas or biases about female issues. Their preconceptions about the juvenile justice system may be based solely on experiences with young males. Effective staff training allows for staff to share a common set of understandings about girls and to convey consistent messages to program participants. Gender-specific staff training focuses on:

  • Program understanding: All staff, including those in non-counseling roles, should understand the vision, mission, program goals, and objectives of gender-specific programming.

  • Adolescent female development: If staff understand adolescent female development, then they can allow girls the freedom to act age appropriately. For example, girls are more likely than boys to question rules and to ask for explanations to their questions. Staff need to recognize this as a desire for verbal engagement, not as a display of insubordination or lack of compliance. (Acoca, 1998b). They should also understand that females are more likely to request and accept help.

  • Risks and resiliency: Staff need to understand the importance of risk factors and protective factors in girls' lives. Because a history of sexual and physical abuse is widespread among girl offenders, for example, girls in secure residential facilities may feel revictimized if asked to submit to strip searches, searches of their personal belongings, or pelvic examinations to determine the extent of their sexual activity. Staff can be sensitized to focus on girls' strengths, such as the courage that has helped them survive victimization, or their willingness to pursue positive changes. (Acoca, 1998b)

  • Training also provides an opportunity for staff to explore their own personal developmental history, such as recalling their own self-image and life experiences during adolescence. Male staff will be made aware of issues unique to girls, for example, the high incidence of sexual abuse among this population. Informed staff who have addressed their personal issues will be better equipped to provide guidance and direction to these girls. For example, staff who have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse in their own lives need to address these issues. Otherwise, their ability to work effectively with girls may be compromised. (Acoca, 1998b)

  • Knowledge of culture: Cultural sensitivity should be addressed during staff training, so that staff are familiar with the cultures, heritages and languages of the specific populations being served. In gender-specific programs, staff value diversity and participate in an ongoing examination of stereotypes regarding race and culture.

  • Assessment: Training teaches staff to anticipate and respond to the needs of individual girls and make appropriate referrals. For example, staff may be expected to evaluate whether a girl's health complaints merit medical attention. Additionally, they need to be trained to distinguish between behaviors that may be related to mental disorders and those signifying disciplinary problems (Acoca, 1998b). Staff are trained to identify, assess, and treat female victims of physical and sexual abuse and neglect.

4. INTAKE PROCESS: Beginning with their intake into a gender-specific program, girls should be treated as individuals. Assessment and orientation are opportunities for the staff to learn more about each girl and the path that has brought her into contact with the juvenile justice system. Girls in detention facilities need to receive comprehensive assessments that will assist providers in determining the girls' programming needs both within and outside the context of the detention facility. Intake in gender-specific programs includes:

  • Assessment and orientation: Like triage in a health-care setting, intake provides an opportunity to assess and rank the girl's needs according to seriousness and to make decisions about the care and network of services needed to put her on the path to wellness. The process should include assessments of risks and resiliency factors to gain a picture of the "whole child" (Acoca, 1998b). A thorough assessment will screen for substance abuse; physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse; wellness; medical and mental health history and any other concerns that are population-appropriate. Case managers assess and rank girls' needs, paying particular attention to information relevant to gender and culture.

    Girls who have experienced violations of trust in the past may express resentment, fear, or hostility at intake. Orientation is an opportunity to deliver the message that each girl will be treated with respect by trustworthy adults who will not abuse their power. Staff should be trained to listen closely to what the girls say and how they say it. It's also important to listen for what they do not say. Their omissions can be just as significant as the information they do share.

  • Culturally relevant information: Girls from minority groups may benefit from working with intake staff who share their cultural or racial heritage or who understand their culture.

  • Service plan: Assessment is used to develop a network of services and a treatment plan unique to the specific issues of the individual girl. Specifically, treatment plan should address issues of victimization, low self-concept, poor identity formation, and ineffective decision making skills.

5. EDUCATION: Education in gender-specific programs addresses the needs of the whole person, including her academic, social, and life skills.

  • Academic: Girls who have struggled with school, who have dropped out, or who have a history of truancy will need help to get back on track academically and develop the higher-level skills (in math, science, and technical fields, for example) that will help prepare them for economic self-sufficiency. Girls may need special help or alternatives to traditional classroom instruction to cope with learning disabilities, overcome learning deficits, or change negative attitudes about their ability to learn and the value of education. Because girls tend to value relationships, they may benefit from cooperative learning environments in which problem solving is a group task.

    Academic assessment at entry into a program creates a baseline against which the girl can measure her increased competencies in such areas as math, English (written and spoken), and computer literacy (Acoca, 1998b). A complete academic history should include the girl's perception of her own academic strengths, weaknesses, and areas of special interest. Assessment should include screening to detect any learning and/or perceptual disabilities and help the girl recognize her own best learning style (how she uses auditory, visual, and kinesthetic functions to understand, process, and express information). When disabilities are detected, girls need to know that learning disabilities are unrelated to intelligence. Ideally, a specialist will help her to overcome or compensate for any learning disabilities, and also recognize her own academic strengths. For example, if a girl has difficulty processing information visually, she may find it easier to learn using audiotapes.

    Specific program components may include preparation for higher education, career development, vocational training, high school completion or GED diploma, or English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction.

  • Women's history and culture: Curriculum uses materials that speak to the girls' heritage and life experiences. Planning celebrations in honor of Women's History Month, African-American and Hispanic history months, for example, can add to girls' appreciation of their identity and heritage.

  • Life skills: Real-world educational opportunities help girls understand how learning relates to life skills. Effective programs help girls make connections between what they study in the classroom and what they will need to know to thrive in the real world. Mentoring programs, guest speakers and visits to worksites enable girls to make personal connections with women who are successful in the world of work.

"I've been at the (residential) program for four months. I'm beginning to build a better relationship with my mom and sisters and brothers. And, I'm learning to live with emotions and express myself. I'm a good person."

-Participant in panel
discussion at 1994 Juvenile Female Offenders Conference in Chicago
  • Women's issues: Research shows that girls may not be aware of how they have been impacted by sex-role messages. A focus on women's issues offers an opportunity for girls to see how their lives have been shaped by economic disparity and poverty; victimization; relationship dynamics; and lack of positive role models. Education should point out the possible links between such issues as child abuse and substance abuse.

  • Arts-based curriculum: Effective programs offer girls a chance to overcome patterns of silence or passivity. Alternative modes of expression, such as those incorporated into an arts-based curriculum, offer girls a way to find their voice and express themselves creatively. Arts-based curriculum programming may include visual arts, dance, drama, music, creative writing, or a combination of art forms.

  • Physical development: Effective programs teach girls to understand what is happening to their bodies during puberty as a positive, normal aspect of becoming a woman. Girls who have matured earlier than their peers may need special attention to overcome feelings of alienation or peer-group rejection, which can put them at greater risk of delinquency.

  • Sexual behavior: Because early sexual experimentation puts girls at increased risk of delinquency, sexuality education is a component of effective programs. Gender- specific educational programs teach girls that their bodies belong to them; that they have choices about how and when to explore their sexuality; and that they have power to set limits in relationships. Because so many girls who become delinquent have a history of sexual abuse, sexuality education can also help them separate past abuse from healthy sexual relating.

6. SKILLS TRAINING: Effective programs help girls discover their strengths and adopt prosocial skills. Specific program components may include:

  • Self-defense training, which teaches girls to define and recognize danger. Victims or witnesses of past abuse or violence benefit from learning practical ways to defend themselves in the future. They also learn to see themselves as survivors, rather than as victims.

  • Assertiveness training, which helps girls who have felt victimized or passive find their voice, express choices, explore options, and set limits in relationships.

  • Self-esteem enhancement, which teaches girls to appreciate and respect themselves, rather than relying on others for validation. Giving girls opportunities to be successful and to master new skills will give them a greater sense of their own value and competency.

  • Empowerment training, which teaches girls to set and reach goals, recognize their own capabilities and strengths, and develop leadership skills. Giving girls the opportunity to help design, implement, and evaluate programs teaches them leadership skills. Victimization treatment empowers them to choose not to be a victim in the future.

  • Physical training, which develops girls' sense of physical competency and strength. Programs may incorporate obstacle or challenge courses that involve positive risk-taking, teamwork skills, and personal commitment to reaching goals.

7. PROMOTE POSITIVE DEVELOPMENT: Effective programs teach girls that development is a life process. If they have gotten off a positive developmental track due to life challenges or risky behaviors, they can make changes and get back on track. A variety of program elements promote positive development, including those that address:

  • Problem solving: By learning to solve problems in a variety of contexts (such as academics, group activities, and community projects), girls develop confidence in their own skills and increase their self-esteem. By learning effective decisionmaking and problem-solving skills, girls develop alternatives to risky or unhealthy behavioral practices.

  • Positive relationship skills: Girls who have grown up in dysfunctional families may not have seen positive relationship skills modeled by adults. In addition, they may feel responsible for the family's problems if they have internalized blame. Effective programs give girls an opportunity to learn positive relationship skills and recognize negative consequences that can result from unhealthy relationship dynamics.

  • Community-based initiatives: Programs that involve girls in community projects enable them to develop skills while promoting positive development. In such programs, girls typically work in teams to choose, research, plan, and implement projects. They hone leadership skills, practice effective communication and problem-solving skills, interact with adult role models, and have an opportunity to contribute to the life of their communities.

  • Development to womanhood: Effective programs present girls with a positive model of being female that counters negative or narrow sex-role stereotypes. Programs such as "rites of passage" celebrations honor a girl's development to womanhood as a positive life event. These program elements encourage positive gender identity development, and are based on an understanding of girls' development as it relates to self-concept, self-esteem, physical development, and sense of social competency.

  • Discovery of strengths and abilities: Preventive programming encourages girls to engage in self-discovery and personal growth. Effective programs offer girls a variety of outlets to discover and affirm their strengths and abilities, without regard to narrow gender stereotypes. Given options, girls may discover they excel at sports, art, music, dance, academics, vocational, or technical fields. Girls who are already mothers need encouragement and role models to discover their capacity to be a strong, nurturing parent.

8. RELATIONSHIP BUILDING: Effective programs don't attempt to compete with girls' need for relationships. Instead, programs address girls' behavior in context by focusing on the choices they have made (both positive and negative) as a result of relationships. Activities to build healthy relationship skills include:

  • Women's issues groups, which build on girls' tendency to listen to and nurture others in interpersonal relationships. Group settings provide opportunities for girls to explore such issues as how females are socialized to be passive and without voice; gang membership, which offers girls a sense of sisterhood and affiliation within a negative context; relational aggression, in which girls may deliberately inflict harm on a relationship by engaging in "backstabbing" or "triangulated" relationship dynamics (in which, for example, a girl may feel she has to "put down" or reject one friend in order to become closer to another).

  • Group therapy. Effective programs use therapy groups because this delivery method offers specific benefits to girls, not because groups are more time efficient or cost-effective than individual therapy. In particular, group therapy settings provide a safe, secure place for girls to address painful experiences related to family dysfunction, sexual abuse, substance abuse, or other situations in which they may have felt isolated, ashamed, or at fault. In group work, girls discover they are not alone in dealing with these issues. They can safely break their silence and express themselves openly.

9. CULTURALLY RELEVANT ACTIVITIES: —Valuing diversity: Programs that value diversity work to counter negative stereotypes about race and culture that some girls may have internalized. Diversity activities promote individual pride, teach respect for the ethnicity of others, and stress similarities to the major culture.

"The parole board sent me to (residential treatment). At first, I didn't follow the rules but finally figured out it was OK to be there. Then I started to change. I wanted to change but was scared when I knew I'd be going back to the streets. I've been taking all the garage out of me. I feel like I'm a better person now."

-Participant in panel
discussion at 1994 Female Offenders Conference in Chicago
  • Dynamics of cultural interaction: Program staff need to be aware that girls bring different cultural patterns to their interactions. These patterns may involve different perspectives on space and time, ways of solving problems, and styles of interacting. Sensitivity to these differences will help address the diverse needs of all girls. Girls of different cultural backgrounds (including those with disabilities) may have communication styles that conflict with the preferred modes present in mainstream culture. This will require flexibility and cultural sensitivity to differences on the part of staff. For example, some cultures do not place the same importance on direct eye contact or have different standards for appropriate speaking volume.

  • Language use: Program providers' language use and fluency can affect a program's credibility with minority populations. Effective programs communicate in the home language of a girl and her family. This may require bilingual/bicultural services, interpreter banks, and outreach efforts to overcome language barriers and connect girls with appropriate community resources. This would also apply when working with girls whose native language is English, but who speak in a vernacular that is not understood by those English speakers not living in the same community.

  • Protective factors: Effective programs recognize and reinforce those racial and ethnic family systems that promote resiliency in girls. Such family patterns may include kin help arrangements, which promote strong family bonding; messages encouraging women to be self-reliant and self-sufficient; involvement in churches and belief in spiritual values; strong work ethic; and promotion of community connection and identity.

  • Curriculum adaptation: Incorporate curricula and materials that emphasize active student involvement such as cooperative learning groups, project-oriented tasks, and the use of manipulatives, visual aids, and models. Incorporating some or all of the following strategies will help to maximize the participation of all girls. Creating a learning environment that is open to diverse perspectives improves learning for all students.

  • Have a bilingual group leader or co-leader or use bilingual assistants when programs include girls with limited English-speaking skills.

  • Incorporate the contributions of original and non-Western cultures. For example, some American Indians used willow bark to treat fevers. Willow bark contains salicin, a key ingredient of aspirin. Many mainstream U.S. Americans are unaware of the contributions of the indigenous peoples of North, Central, and South America to agriculture, astronomy, mathematics, geology, botany, and nutrition.

  • In introducing concepts, ask girls: "What is the history of the concept? Who first discovered it?" This opens the discussion to the cultural dimensions of a topic.

  • Provide contact with culturally appropriate role models.

  • Provide information about past culturally appropriate role models.

  • Challenge students' and other people's attitudes or stereotypes about traditional occupations for women.

  • Ethnic identity: Ethnicity can play an important role in positive identity formation. In addition, because girls tend to value relationships, they may be protected by seeking membership in a group defined by race or ethnicity. If a girl relates positively to others like herself, she comes to appreciate that part of herself that is defined by ethnicity.

  • Adaptation of service delivery: Program activities need to be scheduled so that they do not conflict with family responsibilities, such as the need to care for younger siblings. In addition, competitive, informal and often noisy environments may cause problems for girls who are used to more formal, quiet, or structured environments, or for girls who prefer group-oriented, cooperative environments.

10. CAREER OPPORTUNITIES: Effective programs encourage girls to explore and prepare for careers. Role models from career fields women have not traditionally pursued, such as math and science, can counter subtle messages about which fields are open to or appropriate for women. Professional-technical training helps girls see how their interests, abilities, and skills mesh with real-world job opportunities, and reinforces the message that education is a critical life tool.

"If I didn't come, she [the counselor] would be on the phone, calling me: 'Why aren't you here?' I'd come up with some lame excuse, and she'd say, 'you get in here. You need this education.' Yeah, it worked."

-PACE graduate,
interviewed in Florida Times-Union (May 21, 1995)
11. HEALTH SERVICES: Effective programs provide girls with comprehensive health services, promoting physical and mental wellness. Many adolescent girls have a history of unmet health needs, especially those who have been runaways, homeless, or living in poverty. Screenings offer an opportunity to detect health concerns; plan for appropriate treatment, monitoring, and follow-up; and provide individualized health education. Screenings should include a complete health history, including anemia, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV), eating disorders, substance abuse, hearing and vision problems, infectious and communicable diseases, and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Medical staff should be aware of the health problems more likely to affect girls of color, who are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system. Diabetes, for instance, appears with greater frequency among African Americans (Acoca, 1998a).

Medical staff also need to be aware of other issues that may be affecting an individual girl's health. A history of victimization, for example, indicates a need to screen for emotional concerns, such as flashbacks to the abuse, suicidal thoughts, and other possible symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (Acoca, 1998a). Symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome, an outbreak of herpes, or stomach cramps may reflect a physical response to stress or crisis (Reed, 1994). Some girls may have a dual diagnosis of both substance abuse and a co-occurring psychiatric disorder (Acoca, 1998a), such as an eating disorder or a tendency to self-mutilate. Both issues will need to be addressed in treatment.

Programs that focus on wellness promote good nutrition, exercise, reproductive health, disease prevention, and stress management. Health care also teaches girls to value and respect their bodies.

12. RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES: Effective programs provide recreational activities that give girls challenging, positive experiences. Recreational activities are especially valuable as alternatives to delinquent behaviors (acknowledging the counseling adage, "If you take something away, there better be something to replace it.") Participation in sports, arts, volunteer activities, or a variety of extracurricular programs affords opportunities to end isolation, develop new skills, explore interests, relax, develop self-confidence, make friendships, feel creative, and replace self-destructive behavior with positive, life-affirming experiences.

13. RESPONSIVE SERVICES: In dealing with hard-to-reach ethnic populations, programs may need to seek outside support and services. Involving individuals who are familiar with a particular culture, such as trained lay therapists, paraprofessionals, or peer counselors, may help bridge the gap between service providers unfamiliar with ethnic customs, beliefs, and practices, and families in need of resources to help their daughters avoid or overcome delinquency.

14. MENTORING: Effective programs give girls a chance to interact with females who have mastered life challenges of their own. In particular, girls benefit from programs that incorporate:

  • Gender-based role models. Strong, capable women provide girls with positive role models. They demonstrate the positive aspects of womanhood and counter negative or narrow messages about women. Programs should recruit mentors not only from the professional world but also from the girls' community.

  • Role modeling: Older girls who have developed positive social skills benefit from opportunities to act as mentors to younger girls. Mentoring programs can be mutually beneficial. The older adolescent gains a chance to be nurturing and caring. The younger girl can identify with her mentor as a female who has overcome her own challenges.

15. PEER ACTIVITIES: Effective programs recognize the importance of peers to adolescent girls. Although negative peer pressure may have been a factor in a girl's delinquency (i.e., involvement in girl gangs), positive peer relationships can be a protective factor to prevent delinquency.

  • Positive peer relationships: Adolescent female groups offer girls social support from within their own peer group. Group programs provide a chance for girls to develop positive relationship skills and create a positive sense of "sisterhood" and affiliation with their peers.

16. FULL FAMILY INVOLVEMENT: Effective programs build positive family support for girls. Parents are involved in the treatment plan. Program elements that strengthen and uplift families include:

  • Discussion groups: Parents working to address dysfunctional family issues benefit from a chance to talk with other parents who are facing similar challenges. Discussion groups give parents a chance to learn and reinforce the positive skills that their daughters are developing. Psycho-educational groups focus on female development and female identity formation.

  • Home visits: When a girl is to be returned to the family setting after her confinement in a residential program, home visits are especially important. Family dysfunction may have been a major contributing factor to her delinquency, and family intervention may be necessary before she is released. Home visits enable case managers to make assessments and develop a network of support services to assist the family.

  • Mother-daughter bond: By reaching out to involve a girl's mother or another significant female family member (such as a grandmother or an aunt), effective programs strengthen the bond between mother and daughter. Research indicates that a strong, loving mother-daughter bond builds a girl's self-esteem and can help her resist peer pressure to engage in risky behavior. Programs may involve mothers and daughters in working together on community projects, or provide cultural opportunities (such as arts-related field trips or ethnic celebrations) for mother and daughter to experience together. Similar activities for fathers and daughters are provided when feasible.

17. COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: By involving girls in their communities in positive ways, programs help girls see themselves as contributing members of society. Projects teach girls that they have real power to make changes in their neighborhoods and communities. Community involvement offers opportunities for:

  • Community activities, service projects, field trips, all of which enable a girl to explore the world around her in a positive context

  • Leaderships skills, giving girls responsibility to organize groups to research and create projects

  • Recreational activities, giving girls chances to have fun with their peers in positive ways

  • Career exploration, exposing girls to new career fields and introducing them to role models in the workplace

18. SPECIFIC TREATMENT CONCERNS: Delinquent girls may need specific treatment to address serious issues that may have long-term consequences. Gender-specific programs use a combination of individual and group therapy to help girls address and overcome personal issues that have interfered with positive development during adolescence. Issues may be interwoven and complex. Specific issues that may require treatment include:

  • Substance abuse, which may be both cause and consequence of delinquency. Treatment needs to address underlying issues related to substance abuse, such as a girl's history of sexual abuse, or substance abuse and co-dependency within her family. Effective programs include highly structured phases linked to clearly defined tasks, privileges, and consequences (Acoca, 1995). In gender-specific programs, these phases are based on an understanding of female adolescent development. An individual treatment plan should be developed for each girl and her family. Treatment should be integrated with medical care, especially for girls dually diagnosed (experiencing substance abuse and co-occurring psychiatric problems). Case management can help girls receive the ongoing care they need both during and after treatment.

  • Prenatal and postpartum care: Comprehensive programming addresses the needs of both the teenage mother (or mother-to-be) and her baby. For the mother, prevention focuses on wellness during pregnancy and postpartum; parenting skills to reduce the likelihood of child abuse; and reduction of risky behaviors that could lead to another unplanned pregnancy before she reaches adulthood. Whenever possible, the father should be included in programming.

  • Well baby and day care: Programs serving teen parents need to include comprehensive health care for babies and toddlers. Day care allows teen mothers time to focus on their personal issues, such as education and therapy. Involving mothers in day-care programs also offers them an opportunity to practice parenting skills in a safe, structured environment, while maintaining a strong bond between mother and child.

19. RE-ENTRY INTO COMMUNITY: Effective programs prepare girls for re-entry into the community with support designed to help them avoid repeating risky behaviors. Treatment plan includes assessing and developing resources to assist girls with re-entry, including mental and physical health care, educational, and vocational services. Re-entry services aimed at reducing recidivism among female juvenile delinquents may include:

  • Aftercare: Effective programs provide a seamless continuum of care that does not end when girls return to the community. Keys to aftercare are "graduated support" (a gradual withdrawal of services rather than an abrupt end) and long-term monitoring by an aftercare worker. A structured program for helping girls return successfully to the community includes discussions, presentations, and counseling to prepare them for re-entry. A series of short furloughs can ease the transition by reintroducing girls to the community a little at a time. Aftercare workers who help develop the girls' overall service plan and stay informed of their progress throughout their stay in the program spend time with the girls before they leave the program in order to build trust and rapport. (Milan, 1996; Cowles, Castellano, & Gransky, 1995).

    Chances for successful re-entry are best when aftercare includes placement in employment or an educational program, with ongoing links to appropriate social services, including health care, mental health services, and services that strengthen the family. Girls with histories of sexual abuse and/or substance abuse may need intensive ongoing treatment.

    For youths with a high likelihood of repeat offenses, the Intensive Aftercare Program model developed with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention supports five principles to cut the risks of recidivism (Altschuler & Armstrong, 1995):

  • Preparing the youth for progressively increased responsibility and freedom in the community

  • Facilitating the involvement of and interaction between the youth and the community

  • Working with both the offender and community support systems, including families, peers, schools, and employers, on the qualities needed for constructive interaction and a youth's successful community adjustment

  • Developing new resources and support

  • Monitoring and testing the youth and the community on their ability to deal with each other productively

20. EVALUATION: Effective evaluations help demonstrate which approaches are most useful in working with girls. Evaluations also expand the body of knowledge in this under-researched field, and can help communities and policymakers implement effective, cost-efficient, comprehensive services to help girls (Fetterman, 1996). Evaluation strategy should be built into programming from the earliest planning stages, throughout implementation, and on through the life of the program. As a management tool, evaluation gives information back to the program for the purpose of changing it, improving it, and renewing it (Community Research Associates, 1997).

Evaluation includes a number of benefits, including:

  • Knowledge of where to focus energy for program improvements

  • Help in determining when a program is falling behind schedule and when to make mid-course adjustments

  • Knowledge of and ability to document program success

  • Documented evaluation results to use in fundraising efforts

  • Knowledge among staff that they are making a difference

  • Ability to report success to program board, staff, funders, and policymakers (Community Research Associates, 1997)

Gender-specific program evaluations are logical. They follow a feasible plan to solve identifiable problems. Typically, researchers and service providers jointly examine the risks facing adolescent girls, then list the protective factors that minimize risks of delinquency. Through discussion and problem-solving, service providers and evaluators determine which interventions will be attempted by the program. These interventions are then linked to measurable objectives.

  • Goals, strategies, components: How much improvement does a program aim to accomplish? What resources are available to meet those goals? These questions lead to the setting of specific program goals. Then, strategies are developed to reach those goals. Program staff typically implement the intervention strategies.

  • Process and outcome evaluations: Process evaluation assesses what a program does on a day-to-day basis (i.e., What actually happened? Who received the service? What were the interventions? How often did they receive service? Who provided the intervention? How was a continuum of services developed?). Outcome evaluation assesses the impact of the program over time (i.e., Is the program effective? Does it work? Is the program supporting female offenders in making positive change and preventing girls from entering the juvenile justice system? ). Outcome evaluations may require a significant commitment of time, resources, and support (Community Research Associates, 1997). Most evaluations will assess intermediate outcomes rather than long-term impact (Linney & Wandersman, 1991). Intermediate outcomes are short-term goals that must be accomplished to have an impact on the number of girls entering the juvenile justice system.

  • Feedback: Feedback provides information to those who can solve problems and redirect the organization. It's part of the learning process that evaluation provides. An evaluation plan should address how feedback will be communicated and to whom (Nadler, 1977).

More research is needed to determine the onset and course of female juvenile delinquency, and to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of gender-specific program models. Community-based programs serving this population may lack the evaluation resources to determine program effectiveness. College or university researchers may be able to provide these services in exchange for access to research populations. Creating links between service providers and researchers can provide an important mechanism for advancing gender-specific research and, eventually, helping to reduce the number of female delinquents.

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Guiding Principles for Promising
Female Programming
October 1998