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Evaluation of the Children at Risk Program in Austin, Texas, Bridgeport, Connecticut, Memphis, Tennessee, Savannah, Georgia, and Seattle, Washington, 1993-1997 (ICPSR 2686) RSS

Principal Investigator(s):

Summary:

The Children at Risk (CAR) Program was a comprehensive, neighborhood-based strategy for preventing drug use, delinquency, and other problem behaviors among high-risk youth living in severely distressed neighborhoods. The goal of this research project was to evaluate the long-term impact of the CAR program using experimental and quasi-experimental group comparisons. Experimental comparisons of the treatment and control groups selected within target neighborhoods examined the impact of CAR services on individual youths and their families. These services included intensive case management, family services, mentoring, and incentives. Quasi-experimental comparisons were needed in each city because control group youths in the CAR sites were exposed to the effects of neighborhood interventions, such as enhanced community policing and enforcement activities and some expanded court services, and may have taken part in some of the recreational activities after school. CAR programs in five cities -- Austin, TX, Bridgeport, CT, Memphis, TN, Seattle, WA, and Savannah, GA -- took part in this evaluation. In the CAR target areas, juveniles were identified by case managers who contacted schools and the courts to identify youths known to be at risk. Random assignment to the treatment or control group was made at the level of the family so that siblings would be assigned to the same group. A quasi-experimental group of juveniles who met the CAR eligibility risk requirements, but lived in other severely distressed neighborhoods, was selected during the second year of the evaluation in cities that continued intake of new CAR participants into the second year. In these comparison neighborhoods, youths eligible for the quasi-experimental sample were identified either by CAR staff, cooperating agencies, or the staff of the middle schools they attended. Baseline interviews with youths and caretakers were conducted between January 1993 and May 1994, during the month following recruitment. The end-of-program interviews were conducted approximately two years later, between December 1994 and May 1996. The follow-up interviews with youths were conducted one year after the program period ended, between December 1995 and May 1997. Once each year, records were collected from the police, courts, and schools. Part 1 provides demographic data on each youth, including age at intake, gender, ethnicity, relationship of caretaker to youth, and youth's risk factors for poor school performance, poor school behavior, family problems, or personal problems. Additional variables provide information on household size, including number and type of children in the household, and number and type of adults in the household. Part 2 provides data from all three youth interviews (baseline, end-of-program, and follow-up). Questions were asked about the youth's attitudes toward school and amount of homework, participation in various activities (school activities, team sports, clubs or groups, other organized activities, religious services, odd jobs or household chores), curfews and bedtimes, who assisted the youth with various tasks, attitudes about the future, seriousness of various problems the youth might have had over the past year and who he or she turned to for help, number of times the youth's household had moved, how long the youth had lived with the caretaker, various criminal activities in the neighborhood and the youth's concerns about victimization, opinions on various statements about the police, occasions of skipping school and why, if the youth thought he or she would be promoted to the next grade, would graduate from high school, or would go to college, knowledge of children engaging in various problem activities and if the youth was pressured to join them, and experiences with and attitudes toward consumption of cigarettes, alcohol, and various drugs. Three sections of the questionnaire were completed by the youths. Section A asked questions about the youth's attitudes toward various statements about self, life, the home environment, rules, and norms. Section B asked questions about the number of times that various crimes had been committed against the youth, his or her sexual activity, number of times the youth ran away from home, number of times he or she had committed various criminal acts, and what weapons he or she had carried. Items in Section C covered the youth's alcohol and drug use, and participation in drug sales. Part 3 provides data from both caretaker interviews (baseline and end-of-program). Questions elicited the caretaker's assessments of the presence of various positive and negative neighborhood characteristics, safety of the child in the neighborhood, attitudes toward and interactions with the police, if the caretaker had been arrested, had been on probation, or in jail, whether various crimes had been committed against the caretaker or others in the household in the past year, activities that the youth currently participated in, curfews set by the caretaker, if the caretaker had visited the school for various reasons, school performance or problems by the youth and the youth's siblings, amount of the caretaker's involvement with activities, clubs, and groups, the caretaker's financial, medical, and personal problems and assistance received in the past year, if he or she was not able to obtain help, why not, and information on the caretaker's education, employment, income level, income sources, and where he or she sought medical treatment for themselves or for the youth. Two sections of the data collection instruments were completed by the caretaker. Section A dealt with the youth's personal problems or problems with others, and the youth's friends. Additional questions focused on the family's interactions, rules, and norms. Section B items asked about the caretaker's alcohol and drug use, and any alcohol and drug use or criminal justice involvement by others in the household older than the youth. Part 4 consists of data from schools, police, and courts. School data include the youth's grades, grade-point average (GPA), absentee rate, reasons for absences, and whether the youth was promoted each school year. Data from police records include police contacts, detentions, violent offenses, drug-related offenses, and arrests prior to recruitment in the CAR program and in Years 1-4 after recruitment, court contacts and charges prior to recruitment and in Years 1-4 after recruitment, and how the charges were disposed.

Access Notes

Dataset(s)

DS0:  Study-Level Files
DS1:  Demographic and Household Data - Download All Files (7,270 KB)
DS2:  Baseline, End-of-Program, and Follow-Up Youth Interview Data - Download All Files (15,712 KB)
Documentation:
Data:
DS3:  Baseline and End-of-Program Caretaker Interview Data - Download All Files (20,667 KB)
DS4:  Official Records Data - Download All Files (8,249 KB)
Documentation:

Study Description

Citation

Harrell, Adele V., Shannon Cavanagh, and Sanjeev Sridharan. Evaluation of the Children at Risk Program in Austin, Texas, Bridgeport, Connecticut, Memphis, Tennessee, Savannah, Georgia, and Seattle, Washington, 1993-1997. ICPSR02686-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2000. doi:10.3886/ICPSR02686.v1

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Funding

This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (92-DD-CX-0031)
  • Columbia University. National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse
  • United States Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Institute on Drug Abuse (#R01-DA-08583-01-A2)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   case management, children, cities, crime prevention, delinquent behavior, drug use, family services, intervention, intervention strategies, juvenile offenders, neighborhoods, program evaluation, student attitudes, student behavior, treatment programs, youths at risk

Geographic Coverage:   Austin, Bridgeport, Connecticut, Georgia, Memphis, Savannah, Seattle, Tennessee, Texas, United States, Washington

Time Period:  

  • 1993--1997

Date of Collection:  

  • 1993-01--1997-05

Unit of Observation:   Individuals.

Universe:   All CAR participants in the selected cities in the school years 1992-1993 and 1993-1994.

Data Types:   administrative records data, survey data

Data Collection Notes:

Per the researchers' agreement with each site, the data in this collection do not identify the individual sites.

Methodology

Study Purpose:   The Children at Risk (CAR) Program was a comprehensive, neighborhood-based strategy for preventing drug use, delinquency, and other problem behaviors among high-risk youths living in severely distressed neighborhoods. In CAR, community agencies and partnerships participated in integrated delivery of services to meet the needs of youths and families with multiple problems. Because the programs were explicitly designed to meet local needs, there was some diversity across sites in service provision, but all CAR programs were: (a) highly targeted on high-risk youths who lived in narrowly-defined, relatively small geographic neighborhoods, (b) comprehensive, with eight required service components designed to address neighborhood, peer group, family, and individual risk factors, (c) equipped with integrated service delivery in which justice agencies collaborated closely with case managers and school staff to meet the needs of the neighborhood, participating families, and the youths, and (d) locally planned and directed, to fit the values and cultural backgrounds of the neighborhoods. The goal of this research project was to evaluate the long-term impact of the CAR program. The principal research questions guiding the impact evaluation included: (1) Did participation in CAR reduce the likelihood of problem behaviors, especially drug use and delinquency, among high-risk youths? (2) Did participation in CAR reduce the neighborhood, family, peer group, and individual risk factors that predict the likelihood of problem behaviors? (3) Did participation in CAR contribute to the development of protective factors that help high-risk youths avoid problem behaviors, despite the risks they face? and (4) Did the impact of CAR vary for youths with different demographic, risk factor, or other characteristics? Overall, the impact evaluation was designed to test the general research hypotheses that: (a) youths receiving CAR services would have lower rates of problems than high-risk youths who did not receive CAR services, (b) neighborhoods, families, and youths in CAR neighborhoods would have greater reductions in risk factors than comparable neighborhoods, families, and youths not offered CAR services, and (c) CAR youths and families would have higher levels of service utilization and participation in pro-social activities than non-CAR families and youths with comparable risk factors. In addition, the evaluation tested the hypothesis that CAR youths would be more likely to develop protective factors that would give them the skills, attitudes, and values to avoid problem behaviors.

Study Design:   Tests of these hypotheses were based on experimental and quasi-experimental group comparisons. Experimental comparisons of the treatment and control groups selected within target neighborhoods examined the impact of CAR services on individual youths and their families. These services included intensive case management, family services, mentoring, and incentives. Quasi-experimental comparisons were needed in each city because control group youths in the CAR sites were exposed to the effects of neighborhood interventions, such as enhanced community policing and enforcement activities and some expanded court services, and may have taken part in some of the recreational activities after school. CAR programs in five cities -- Austin, TX, Bridgeport, CT, Memphis, TN, Seattle, WA, and Savannah, GA -- took part in this evaluation. In the CAR target areas, juveniles were identified by case managers who contacted schools and the courts to identify youths known to be at risk. Random assignment to the treatment or control group was made at the level of the family so that siblings would be assigned to the same group. A quasi-experimental group of juveniles who met the CAR eligibility risk requirements, but lived in other severely distressed neighborhoods, was selected during the second year of the evaluation in cities that continued intake of new CAR participants into the second year. In these comparison neighborhoods, youths eligible for the quasi-experimental sample were identified either by CAR staff, cooperating agencies, or the staff of the middle schools they attended. Interviewers contacted potential sample members by letter or in person. Baseline interviews with youths and caretakers were conducted between January 1993 and May 1994, during the month following recruitment. The end-of-program interviews were conducted approximately two years later, between December 1994 and May 1996. The follow-up interviews with youths were conducted one year after the end of the program period, between December 1995 and May 1997. Both the youth and caretaker interviews included self-administered answer sheets for asking sensitive questions. Once each year, records were collected from the police and courts in each city on officially recorded contacts. Because it was not possible to link police contacts to court contacts, the analysis examined the pattern of contacts separately for each type of agency. Records were collected from the schools on grades, promotion, and percentage of scheduled days attended. School data were collected only from the public schools.

Sample:   Cities were selected to achieve regional and ethnic diversity and to represent cities with strong plans for implementing the CAR model. CAR target neighborhoods were those served by the CAR program in that city. Quasi-experimental comparison neighborhoods were selected based on census tract information and then two adjacent highly distressed tracts (but not the two most distressed tracts) were selected. Youths were selected based on CAR eligibility criteria.

Data Source:

Part 1: CAR administrative records, Part 2: interviews with youths, Part 3: interviews with caretakers, and Part 4: school, police, and court records

Description of Variables:   Part 1 provides demographic data on each youth, including age at intake, gender, ethnicity, relationship of caretaker to youth, and youth's risk factors for poor school performance, poor school behavior, family problems, or personal problems. Additional variables provide information on household size, number and type of children in the household, number and type of adults in the household. Part 2 provides data from all three youth interviews (baseline, end-of-program, and follow-up). Questions were asked about the youth's attitudes toward school and amount of homework, participation in various activities (school activities, team sports, clubs or groups, other organized activities, religious services, odd jobs or household chores), curfews and bedtimes, who assisted the youth with various tasks, attitudes about the future, seriousness of various problems the youth might have had over the past year and who he or she turned to for help, number of times the youth's household had moved, how long the youth had lived with the caretaker, various criminal activities in the neighborhood and the youth's concern of victimization, opinions on various statements about the police, occasions of skipping school and why, if the youth thought he or she would be promoted to the next grade, would graduate from high school, or would go to college, knowledge of children engaging in various problem activities and if the youth was pressured to join them, and experiences with and attitudes toward consumption of cigarettes, alcohol, and various drugs. Three sections of the questionnaires were completed by the youths. Section A asked questions about the youth's attitudes toward various statements about self, life, the home environment, rules, and norms. Section B asked questions about the number of times that various crimes had been committed against the youth, sexual activity, number of times he or she ran away from home, number of times the youth had committed various criminal acts, and what weapons he or she had carried. Items in Section C asked about the youth's alcohol and drug use, and participation in drug sales. Part 3 provides data from both caretaker interviews (baseline and end-of-program). Questions elicited the caretaker's assessments of the presence of various positive and negative neighborhood characteristics, safety of the child in the neighborhood, attitudes toward and interactions with the police, if the caretaker had been arrested, had been on probation, or in jail, whether various crimes had been committed against the caretaker or others in the household in the past year, activities that their youth currently participated in, curfews set by the caretaker, if the caretaker had visited the school for various reasons, school performance or problems by the youth and the youth's siblings, amount of the caretaker's involvement with activities, clubs, and groups, the caretaker's financial, medical, or personal problems and assistance received in the past year, if he or she was not able to obtain help and why not, and information on the caretaker's education, employment, income, income sources, and where he or she sought medical treatment for themselves and the youth. Two sections of the data collection instruments were completed by the caretaker. Section A questions asked about the youth's personal problems or problems with others and the youth's friends. Additional questions focused on the family's interactions, rules, and norms. Section B items asked about the caretaker's alcohol and drug use and the alcohol and drug use and criminal justice involvement by others in the household older than the youth. Part 4 consists of data from schools, police, and courts. School data include the youth's grades, grade-point average (GPA), absentee rate, reasons for absences, and whether the youth was promoted each school year. Data from police records include police contacts, detentions, violent offenses, drug-related offenses, and arrests prior to recruitment in the car program and in years 1-4 after recruitment, court contacts and charges prior to recruitment and in years 1-4 after recruitment, and how the charges were disposed. For the police and court records, certain kinds of contacts were not included: (a) child abuse, neglect, and dependency actions, (b) informal contacts that did not result in a written report, and (c) contacts with police and courts in other jurisdictions.

Response Rates:   Eighty-nine percent of parents who were approached in Year 1 agreed to join the study. The interview response rates for youths were 98 percent at baseline, 77 percent at the end of the program, and 76 percent at follow-up. Caregiver response rates were 97 percent at baseline and 78 percent at the end of the program.

Presence of Common Scales:   Several Likert-type scales were used.

Extent of Processing:  ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Version(s)

Original ICPSR Release:  

Version History:

  • 2006-03-30 File UG2686.ALL.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.
  • 2006-03-30 File QU2686.ALL.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.
  • 2005-11-04 On 2005-03-14 new files were added to one or more datasets. These files included additional setup files as well as one or more of the following: SAS program, SAS transport, SPSS portable, and Stata system files. The metadata record was revised 2005-11-04 to reflect these additions.

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