Prevention programs are established throughout the nation to aid in the prevention of a variety of social and psychological issues. Programs from education-based prevention to alcohol abuse prevention find their way into communities everywhere. The problem lies in the effectiveness of these programs to prevent problems that arise within a diverse community. Assessing established programs and the means in which they have failed expectations may assist others in providing a more effective preventative program. This essay will look at a variety of preventive programs that are evident in communities throughout the nation. It will consist of an in depth look into the functions, goals, successes, and failures of these preventive programs.
Prevention programs are found in nearly every community throughout the country. Programs focused on early education, such as Head Start, are more common in communities due to the belief that “assisting children prior to school age can greatly increase their potential to withstand pressures brought on by peers” (D. Williams, personal communication, September 2, 2010). Head Start was established in 1965 to aid deprived children with preparing for their educational career. The mission statement for Head Start is to offer quality services and products that enhance the lives of children and their families (NHSA, 2010). The goals for Head Start are to aid low-income children in preparing for their school years, assisting families with financial difficulties to arrange the proper care and nurturing for their children, and to give quality support to those who need it most.
The mission statement and goals set forth by the Head Start organization have failed to meet expectations according to recent studies. According to Diane Ravitch (1998), the program has failed to provide adequate evidence that it is truly providing these children with educational preparedness. Another major factor that is thwarting the success of Head Start is the fact that the program itself does not hold a firm curriculum. According to Ravitch, there is no curriculum at all for children in Head Start and Early Head Start; these children are simply put on performance standards. The centers are not given any form of guidance or skills to ensure the children that participate in the program are given all the resources available to guarantee their preparations for their school years.
Another major flaw in the Head Start program is the lack of financial resources. Head Start is a government funded prevention program. Once it was well established, Head Start offered services other than education. Children were offered psychological, cognitive development, social, nutrition, and health care assistance, and their families were offered employment as teaching assistants. However, this became too much and with the economy downfall, many of the alternative services were suspended due to lack of funds. Therefore, Head Start cannot succeed in its original mission and goals if half of the services they wish to perform are no longer offered within the program.
Another widely known prevention program is Healthy Tracks. This too is a prevention program implemented by the United States government to aid low-income families in their health and dental needs. The program allows family members who are twenty-one years of age or younger who meet the income requirements to obtain a twenty-five dollar stipend for attending a Healthy Tracks appointment (NDHS, n.d.). In this appointment, the family member is given a physical that checks for dental issues, medical problems, and psychological issues. The family can also receive referrals to other practitioners if needed.
This program has numerous flaws that deter its success rate. The main issue with Healthy Tracks is the referral process. Participants of the program must be referred by a social services agent in order to qualify. This does not allow families who prefer not to have social services involved in their situation enter the program. Social services agent Linda Ebel (personal communication, September 3, 2010) stated, “Healthy Tracks could very well be the best program available, if only it was offered to the general public instead of only those who request medical or food assistance.” The program is overseen by the United States government, so as with Head Start, funding for the program is diminishing as the economy falls, soon there will be very little funding available for these early prevention programs.
Though each of these programs remained flawed, overall they do assist many people throughout the nation. Head Start is still one of the most popular prevention programs available, and Healthy Tracks remains successful due to the monetary gain families receive for participating. Each program provides social, medical, and psychological assistance, as long as the family requests it. Low-income families are able to both prepare their young for the issues and nerves of attending school and receive a complete physical for their children so they may prevent illnesses and emotional problems from arising.
Other prevention programs focus on adolescents and preventing drug and alcohol abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, and youth violence. These programs vary between communities but the most known prevention program for adolescent drug abuse is the Drug Abuse Resistance Education or D.A.R.E. This program is applied in nearly every school district around the country. The program consists of police officers giving lessons to children who are school age from Kindergarten to senior year (Tinelli, 1997). The officers enter the academic building to educate children on resisting peer pressure, living drug-free, and the consequences of using illegal drugs. The program was established in 1983 and the officers given the Drug Abuse Resistance Education duty are chosen due to their professional experience, which makes them prime candidates for educating young children about the dangers and consequences of illegal narcotics.
The program has helped millions of children and their families over the twenty-seven years it has been available. However, this program does have many imperfections that prevent its successfulness. The key issue with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program is the overall generalization of the program. The officers report on all types and forms of illegal drugs without concentrating on one particular area. This can diminish its effectiveness because certain school districts have issues with only one specific drug instead of the many that are available. “There is no way for all the information to be given in the short amount of time allowed to discuss it” (G. Lemke, personal communication, September 4, 2010). Lemke, like many other officers, is forced to give only the basic information, and cannot clash with a school setting. This can cause real problems when trying to discuss the real medical and psychological problems that can arise from using illegal drugs.
Another major downfall to the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program is the idea of starting the education at such an early age. The program is given to children while in school; this means that children in the fifth and sixth grade are educated on illegal drugs. It can be almost impossible to teach children who have not gone through puberty the ways to deal with peer pressure and the effects of abuse (Surgeon General, n.d.). Children at that young of an age cannot understand what is being said to them, and therefore the education process is hindered.
Adolescent prevention programs are not specifically centered on drug abuse, other programs, such as the Preventative Treatment Program; focus on adolescents from the age of seven to the age nine who are from poverty-stricken families who have shown signs of unruliness. The program is a two-year intervention program aiming towards preventing delinquency (Surgeon General, n.d.). This particular program uses school social skills and parent training to thwart any form of delinquency through the age of twelve. The program relies on the parent’s willingness to comply with the rules and regulations as well as the individual child working with professionals and parents to comply with the criteria. This can cause problems between professionals and parents (SBDPH, 1996). The program itself is specifically focused on low-income families whose children show signs of problems. This in itself can make many feel as though they are being discriminated against simply because they are poor (Ebel, 2010). The program however, has a success rate higher than many other prevention programs. It was first studied on Canadian boys in Kindergarten who were disruptive in a class setting. The program itself has not gained national status because of the discriminatory factor.
Both of these programs focus on adolescents and preventing social, psychological, and drug abuse within a school setting. The programs offer both the children and their families an opportunity to educate themselves on the pros and cons of anti-social behavior, drug abuse, disruptive behavior, and peer pressure. The programs, though not perfect in nature, both have success rates that prove that these programs are helping to some extent (Brauser, 2009). In time, and with some revamping, these two programs have the potential to aid millions of families in preventing the delinquency of their children.
Prevention programs as whole seem to fail expectations put forth by, not only the founders, but also the public. This is because many preventative programs generalize their services instead of altering provisions based on the community need. For instance, if the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program had prior knowledge of which drug or drugs is more prominent in the area, they could focus more time on that particular drug instead of discussing all types in a basic form. Another example would be Head Start and their services being the same throughout the country. If Head Start were to offer the services most needed in a community at all times without funding for the services not apparent, this would allow more families to obtain the assistance they need rather than services that are not necessary.
Community Psychology plays a major role in preventive programs. Community Psychology focuses on researching issues within a community and working to prevent the issues from arising again. With the aid of a community psychologist, these preventative programs can find the information and resources to aid their own community, instead of using the generic basis of the national program. Community Psychology can also work with local government officials, volunteers, and community members to work towards a compromise and workable area so that these programs are allowed to succeed in every community.
Prevention programs, though they seem to fail social expectations, overall aid in the betterment of their participant’s lives. Programs such as Head Start and the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, offer services that aid not only the children in their program, but also their family members. This type of empowerment gives the participants the idea that their treatment, education, and overall prevention is in their hands and in their power. This in itself will greatly increase the success rate of these types of prevention programs.
There are numerous ways preventive programs can adjust to assist all different types of clientele. Recognizing all the different aspects of each participant can benefit both the individual and the program (Hughes & Ong, 1995). By realizing that different communities will have different issues, and implementing the proper services for the particular community, will help the success rates and the relationship between the program’s staff and the participants. Prevention programs must recognize that each participant has different beliefs; goals, aspirations, and needs in order to be successful assist them during the program’s participation. Without this, there is no plausible way for prevention programs to accomplish their mission statements and their program goals.
Prevention programs can be found in almost every community throughout the country. For this reason, many programs continue on a generic base, rather than accommodating for the area’s particular diversity. This leads many programs to fail. However, there are programs out there, which have successfully prevented disasters, social problems, and other issues. If these preventive programs can adjust their programs to fit the differences within their community, they are going to be more successful.
Diversity, whether it be cultural or otherwise, is indeed prudent to the success or failure of a prevention program. The program’s guidelines must be diverse enough to assist all clients in all aspects of their culture, gender, age group, and religion. For instance, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program educates children in a very generic way. The police officers who implement the program are not given direction into the different cultures that may look at some drug use as culturally normal. Such as is the case with Native Americans and the drug peyote (Stratton, 2010).
Another program that does not appear to take culture differences into practice is Health Tracks. This program is designed to give young children and their families an opportunity to detect illnesses and disabilities early in life. However, since medicine practices vary between cultures, this program should implement that not all clients will understand the diagnosis given, or decide to take preventative measures because of their cultural beliefs. This can cause many program volunteers to feel as though their work is being undermined by the lack of cultural competency by the program’s leaders. For these programs to work successfully in the end, they must focus their attentions on the diverse community in which they are assisting.
Cultural diversity, along with other differences, has not always been on the forefront of Human Services. However, diversity is becoming more evident with the growing number of minorities in the country. With the numbers rising, it is only a matter of time before preventive programs reach the potential to serve all differences in each individual.
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