As reported by the Times Herald Staff (click here to read the full article)
Norristown Area Communities That Care For Youth (CTC), a coalition dedicated to reducing those risk factors that could lead to adolescent drug use and violence and enhancing protective factors that shield them from such problems, wants parents to be mindful of the risk factors summer freedom can bring.
CTC Community Mobilizer Angela Bell said with all the free time kids have during summer months — especially with both parents working, as is often the case — they’re “more susceptible to peer pressure and more likely to make bad choices.
“If parents are mindful of that, they can try to do whatever they can to engage their children and teens in pro-social activities through the summer,” Bell said. “Tap the local resources, and find out what’s available in your community.”
The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) has supported CTC for more than a decade, and more than 100 communities have been trained in this research-driven model.
The Evidence Based Prevention and Intervention Support Center (EPIS Center) in State College, funded by PCCD and the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, directs outreach and advocacy efforts, provides technical assistance to communities and conducts original research to promote the use of prevention and intervention programs proven effective through scientific studies.
Brian Bumbarger, director of the EPIS Center, said, “One of the important risk factors for delinquency or youth drug use is poor parental supervision. And so especially when kids are at that early adolescent time when their parents become less of an influence on them and peers become more of an influence on them, it’s really important to make sure there are good, positive pro-social things for kids to do in the summertime, and to make sure there is adult supervision and guidance.
“It’s not just about keeping kids busy; it’s about keeping them busy and at the same time doing things that instill positive values in them.”
Bell, who’s been the Norristown CTC’s mobilizer since its August 2001 inception, said, “We have a combination of program and environmental strategies working toward the same goal: preventing delinquent behavior.” Program strategies include in-classroom LifeSkills Training, provided to fifth- through eighth-graders in Norristown Area School District, as part of their health curriculum; and nighttime parent education classes offered in conjunction with Family Services, CTC’s lead agency.
Without an initiative like CTC utilizing evidence-based programs, Bumbarger said, “a lot of money is otherwise wasted on things that don’t work, or directed to things that aren’t the root of the problem.
“We have some strategies in Pennsylvania that have been proven effective in reducing youth crime and drug use and at the same time improving academic achievement,” Bumbarger said. “That’s a great thing — except that since 2002, the funding level for those two initiatives (CTC and evidence based programs) in Pennsylvania has been cut by 93 percent.”
In 2002 these initiatives received about $17 million dollars from the state. By last year that figure was reduced to $3 million. For 2011 it’s proposed by and Gov. Ed Rendell and the House of Representatives to drop this funding by another 67 percent, Bumbarger said, bringing it down to just over $1 million.
“There are a number of community coalitions that have completely disintegrated, because there’s no funding for the community mobilization that needs to take place; they just fell apart. These initiatives operate on shoe string budget already, so when times get tough, they’re the first things to get cut — even though they’re some of the most important things in a community.”
Kelly Brown of Family Services said Norristown Area CTC has “been very fortunate to have an engaged and active board (that helps) … keep these efforts going.”
She said with the impact of state budget cuts, CTC has primarily relied on federal Drug Free Communities funds to stay afloat, but it’s the coalition’s determination to secure a diversification of funding — a mixture of state, federal and local — that she attributes to their survival in tough economic times.
“Everybody understands we need to make cuts,” Bumbarger said, “but it doesn’t make sense to cut the things that have been proven effective in changing something that actually saves taxpayer dollars (reducing crime).
“It’s the worst possible timing to be cutting prevention … because the very things that we know are at the root of youth delinquency, violence, drug use and school failure are the things that are going to get worse, because our economy is so bad,” Bumbarger said.