Stories of AGTO Successes
Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention: “Reducing Substance Abuse – Building Community”
The Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) coalition was formed to prevent and reduce substance abuse by youth and young adults in the greater capital area of Augusta, Maine. Its mission is to reduce access to drugs of choice and increase community understanding of the risks and consequences for illegal use.
ASAP was involved for a year with AGTO and a technical assistant specialist through the Assets-Getting To Outcomes for Maine study. In that time, they conducted several activities to learn more about their community needs and resources, or Step 1 in the AGTO process. First, they reviewed their existing data and discovered high rates of substance abuse among youth and that youth did not feel supported by their community. Also, since the coalition did not have current information on the level of Developmental Assets among youth, ASAP’s steering committee conducted a needs assessment with local teens which included fielding an Asset Checklist, a focus group, and a key leader survey. The findings from the needs assessment were then shared with the broader community at a community forum.
From there, the coalition and interested community members were trained on the Developmental Asset framework and participated in two strategic planning sessions focusing on the feedback from the needs assessment. They developed a logic model, identified and engaged new partners, and developed a plan on how to move forward with the information they had gathered.
Today there are stronger partnerships between coalition member organizations and an increased focus on including youth in the coalition’s monthly meetings. With their involvement, the coalition has sponsored two programs: the Rotary Interact Club which partners Rotary Club members with youth to learn about civic engagement and a Worksite Visit project offered to middle school students to learn about career choices. Although recruiting youth continues to be a challenge, there is a continued effort to reduce substance abuse enhanced by a community-wide strategy to increase assets among youth in the community.
Make A Difference High School Youth Group
The Make a Difference High School Youth Group, partially funded by the town of Bucksport and the Healthy Maine Partnership was formed to address the lack of high school youth involvement in the prevention of tobacco use, obesity, and substance abuse among youth in Bucksport, Maine. The youth group of about 10 members had weekly meetings at the high school and was co-facilitated by a guidance counselor and a town youth worker. The youth were very energetic but had no structure to plan their prevention activities.
By the time they became engaged with AGTO and a technical assistant specialist in the Assets-Getting To Outcomes for Maine study, they had been struggling for a year. They had created anti-drinking and driving posters and participated in the Great American Smoke Out, but no visible impacts were documented. During their involvement in AGTO, they took a step back and started with a needs assessment (AGTO Step 1) using a school wide survey. From the survey findings, they discovered that high school students’ top three concerns were a lack of respect among students, substance abuse, and feelings that the community didn’t care about them. The Make a Difference High School Youth Group created goals (AGTO Step 2) and an action plan (AGTO Step 6) which included informing the school and community of the survey results, engaging partners to address the concerns expressed on the survey, organizing and conducting a student summit to engage youth in problem solving their concerns, and training teachers and students on school improvement needs. They also developed and implemented a satisfaction survey after the youth summit to get feedback from students on what worked and what did not (AGTO Step 7). They discovered that the majority of students felt respected as a result of being involved in the problem solving offered at the youth summit.
Today there is still an active Make a Difference High School Youth Group in spite of funding cuts that limit adult staff involvement. They continue to reach out to their peers to gather student concerns, make action plans, and engage school and community partners. There is also now an active youth member from the Make a Difference group that participates regularly on the Healthy Bucksport Community Coalition, a community-wide leadership group that coordinates and implements programming to support healthy youth development.
This community-based prevention coalition in central Maine, now called Children Matter, was founded in 1998 as part of the newly-formed statewide network of coalitions known then as Maine Communities for Children and Youth. Its goal is to promote positive youth development and reduce substance abuse among area children and youth. Coalition programs serve twelve surrounding communities that offer after-school, parenting, youth diversion, and youth employment programs conducted through their Drug-Free Communities (DFC) initiative. There are three full-time employees.
Starting in September 2009, the coalition and four programs they run began receiving the AGTO support intervention -- comprised of the manual published by Search Institute, training in the 10 steps of the AGTO planning process, and onsite technical assistance for two years. The technical assistance helped the coalition with their restructuring to better align their strategies to augment positive youth development in their community with the Developmental Asset framework, and with submitting their DFC grant reapplication, which included Developmental Asset language and planning.
In addition to receiving the DFC grant and successfully reorganizing their structure, the coalition made several changes to incorporate the AGTO approach into their work. At the end of the technical assistance period, coalition leadership was displaying a poster of the 10 step AGTO process at every coalition meeting. Several of their advisory committees adapted their meeting minutes to be structured along the AGTO planning model. Many coalition members reported that they had shared Developmental Asset knowledge with other colleagues in their respective agencies. Indeed, the coalition offers their own trainings on Developmental Assets whenever the need presents itself in the community. Funds were secured to hire a part-time staff person to plan, implement, and coordinate a new Youth Advisory group to ensure more active participation by youth in the work of the coalition.
Diversion To Assets
Multiple Sites in Maine
This juvenile diversion program for first-time non-violent offenders, known as Diversion To Assets, seeks to reduce recidivism rates by having youth carry out community service in connection with a caring adult from a social services agency or other community setting. By helping youth discover their own interests in positive activities, the program aims to increase participating youths’ Developmental Assets, skills in an area of interest to them, and self-worth. Referrals are received from four local police departments and from school resource officers. It is one of five Diversion to Assets sites in the state, formerly coordinated by Maine Communities for Children and Youth, an umbrella organization composed of 62 community prevention coalitions. The program is funded through the Department of Corrections.
Starting in 2008, the program began receiving the AGTO support intervention – comprised of the manual published by Search Institute, training in the 10 steps of the AGTO planning process, and onsite technical assistance for two years. Through technical assistance, the part-time staff person addressed most of the 10 steps of the AGTO process. Some examples of accomplishments by Step are described below.
For example, the program staff developed a logic model and improved the precision of program outcome statements (AGTO Step 2). As a type of needs assessment, the program reviewed and revised Intake forms to include questions to parents and participants asking them to identify the young person’s natural strengths and interests, which helped build more positive relationships among parents, staff, and participants and determine the community setting for the participant’s placement (AGTO Step 1). After reviewing other evidence-based diversion programs (AGTO Step 3), the program increased its involvement with parents. It was determined that there was a good fit (AGTO Step 4) with the needs of the community since there was no other youth diversion program offered locally at the time.
Since the program was having some difficulty in recruiting community sites for participant placement, a program brochure and marketing plan was designed to increase the number of placements for participants (AGTO Step 6). Also, a program operations manual was developed (AGTO Step 6) and served as the template for a statewide manual developed during a Service to Science grant.
Participant satisfaction surveys for participants and parents were added to their existing process evaluation process (AGTO Step 7). Outcome data including the Developmental Asset Profile (which had been already pre-determined at the state level), were collected on all youth (Step 8). The Continuous Quality Improvement process (AGTO Step 9) identified problems in the outcome data collection that, when addressed, resulted in more reliable data. The brochures increased visibility of the program in the community and contributed to future sustainability (AGTO Step 10).