Second Step: A Violence Prevention Initiative

State: NY Type: Model Practice Year: 2004

This practice is a county-wide comprehensive violence prevention program, including school districts and community agencies. The target population includes students in grades Pre-K-8 and their families. The program has reached approximately 2500 students and 200 parents. Second Step is increasing positive social skills and knowledge about violence prevention. Specific negative behaviors have decreased and specific targeted positive behaviors have increased. The key elements needed to replicate this practice include cooperation from the main stakeholders (i.e., school districts, community agencies, parents) and funding sources that are consistent for at least three years. The goals and objectives of this practice are:   An observed behavior change in the classroom as well as the school climate. Increased use of social skills and emotion management. Fewer in disciplinary referrals as well as less time spent in the classroom on disciplinary issues. Greater knowledge and understanding of skills encompassing impulse control, anger management, problem solving and positive social behavior. Integration of lessons learned into the homes of families receiving the curriculum. Reaching as many school districts as possible within the county. Collaborating with local community agencies to form a comprehensive community-wide plan.
School violence, community violence, and interpersonal violence are topics of serious discussion throughout the public health sector as well as society in general. These concerns gave rise to Second Step, a community-wide intervention focusing on violence prevention and positive social skills training. The schools that participated in the initial assessment were very supportive, especially about the program’s potential to prevent violence. Second Step: A Violence Prevention Program focuses on empathy, anger management, impulse control, and pro-social skills. The curriculum was developed for students in kindergarten through eighth grade and their families. In Year One, Second Step was piloted in six county schools and reached approximately 1500 students. About 100 employees from community agencies were trained in A Family Guide to Second Step in order to effectively serve the families of students receiving the curriculum in school. The program addresses the need to reduce interpersonal violence within the school systems and community in general. Second Step takes an innovative approach to preventive intervention, because it is a program that suits the specific needs of the school districts and families in the community. This practice also differs from other approaches by directly connecting the parents to the activities of the program that their child is receiving in school. Many school violence prevention programs do not involve the students’ families. This program allows for the transfer of learning from school to the home. The skills learned are very easy to adopt in the home. This allows for the parents to take an active role in their child’s educational experience.
Agency Community RolesThe Livingston County Department of Health is the lead fiscal agent for a rural health network grant that created the Genesee Valley Health Partnership (GVHP). This partnership is an unincorporated collaboration of over 40 organizations serving Livingston County residents. The mission is to improve health outcomes in Livingston County through collaboration, education, prevention, and practice. The role of the stakeholders/partners in the planning and carrying out of a countywide violence prevention program is to: Develop goals and objectives. Foster collaboration and decision making.  Conduct needs assessment and analysis.  Participate in running the program.  Evaluate the program. Many of the partnership’s members are active participants in carrying out Second Step. Further, partnership any members have been trained in the Family Guide to Second Step and offer this program through their agency/organization. They supply staff and time in an effort to implement Second Step as widely and consistently as possible. The stakeholders are also important because they can reach an array of populations, from students in a school to families in crisis. The Livingston County Department of Health fosters collaboration through sponsoring of the Genesee Valley Health Partnership.The department: Hosts regular committee meetings.  Has volunteered staff to chair numerous committees and subcommittees.  Has recommended many community agency organizations to participate.  Participates on many committees and offers resources to those committees wherever relevant. The Genesee Valley Health Partnership and the Livingston County Department of Health together have been an example of a successful collaboration. Costs and ExpendituresThe practice costs include curriculum for participating schools; training for teachers, agency, staff or administration; and the salary of a violence prevention coordinator. These costs are approximately $48,900 for Year One, $76,250 for Year Two, and an estimated $65,000 for Year Three. Year four will cost less because the majority of the schools are implementing the program in kindergarten through six grades. The GVHP is funded by the New York State Office of Rural Health. ImplementationThe steps taken to implement this program were: Hiring a dedicated contractor to see this project to completion. Meeting with the school districts and discussing their buy-in to a violence prevention program. Teaching lessons. Discussing with community agencies their availability for and commitment to the Family Guide to Second Step. Supporting the schools’ decision to implement the program that best fit their needs. Supplying reliable and realistic support to deal with any barriers that might arise. Collaborating within the Genesee Valley Health Partnership for continuing support and community involvement, as well as community recognition. Developing goals and objectives for each participating school and agency. Preparing for trainings and staff development for each committed school/agency. The GVHP’s Violence Prevention Subcommittee met regularly to allow for feedback and troubleshooting related to the implementation process. The schools and community agencies were involved in the decision-making process. Year One implementation included six schools plus Head Start of Livingston County. Year Two included eight school districts plus Head Start and one after-school program. This initiative has expanded substantially each year, exceeding the goals. Predictions are that by Year Four—2005—Second Step will reach its goal of being implemented from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade in all participating schools. Each school district commits to expansion at the end of each school year. Whether districts commit to expanding the program one grade or through eighth grade depends on the model of implementation and individual school preference. Training for conducting the program is offered every school year at any time, and many schools take of advantage of this throughout the year. Schools are contacted at approximately the same time each year regarding support, expansion, feedback, and training needs. This leaves the summer months for evaluation and data analysis.
To determine whether this has been an effective strategy and intervention there have been many assessments and evaluations in place. The original goal of three schools participating was exceeded in years one and two. Another aspect of the process evaluation is the overall communication between the violence prevention coordinator and teachers. On specific target dates there is a process assessment of the amount of lessons taught and lessons needed to finish the program within the school year. This has enabled the GVHP and violence prevention subcommittee to assess the use of the program, including fidelity and continuity. The evaluation tools and instruments in this project consist of a teacher pre and post survey, teacher post behavior questionnaire and a children’s pre and post interview. The goal of the children’s interview instrument is to identify whether children gain knowledge in these skills from the beginning of the school to the end. The teacher surveys are trying to establish attitudes about violence prevention in the classroom by the teacher and their input on concerns, questions, and disciplinary issues in each classroom. It aims to detect any behavior changes made by the students throughout the school year in the classroom and other school-related activities. There has been a noticeable increase in positive social skills used and maintained throughout the school atmosphere. Results of the children’s interview instrument have determined the student’s gain in knowledge regarding problem solving, anger management and empathy has also increased significantly. Sixty-five percent of all children interviewed scored higher on the post-test, 54% of all children post-tested were able to verbalize anger management techniques as compared to 25% at the pre-test interview. The mean score on the pre-test for all children was 16.8, the mean score for the post-test was 19.3, average difference from the beginning of the school year to the end; increase by 2.3 points. Results of the teacher surveys and questionnaires were similar.
SustainabilityCommitment to this practice is ensured through oral and written contracts between the school districts and Genesee Valley Health Partnership. It is also ensured because accountability for violence prevention/character education programming is increasing. A program like Second Step benefits the school environment and social maturity of its students—and it is also the type of practice that recent legislative regulations are mandating this type of practice. As a result, the schools are using this program because it is free and is supported for little or no cost. Once the curriculum is in place there is no need to buy new kits every year. A school may choose to purchase extra materials, but they are not mandatory to the success of the program. As for stakeholder commitment, the GVHP, agencies, and schools involved with Second Step have seen results in student behavior as early as Year One. These results reported by schools will be used to encourage future use and buy-in. Right now the funding is in place for the third and fourth years of the program. By the end of Year Four, Second Step is expected to reach its goal of being in place in grades K-8 at all eight participating schools. Because the kits are reusable and do not need to change every year, little money is needed to sustain this program. Sustained success depends largely on the continued relationships among the Genesee Valley Health Partnership, the school districts, and community partners, including the Livingston Count Department of Health. This relationship involves empowerment, trust, sustainability, resource allocation, communication, and collaboration. These entities often have the same desired outcomes and objectives. Their relationship in GVHP furthers the practice goals by supporting and maintaining objectives and by coordinating appropriate resources and their expectancies. The Livingston County Department of Health encourages an innovative, successful approach to public health, and the Genesee Valley Health Partnership views this as essential for successful programming and collaboration. Lessons LearnedThese lessons have been learned through trial and error over the past two years. The program must recognize and/or determine: The necessary time it takes to implement the full curriculum. Ideal starting and training dates. The appropriate time to contact schools and participants either to start the discussions or for process evaluation. The necessary time required for outcome evaluation and for receiving data. The attitudes and availability of participating school districts. The need to ensure the buy-in from the administration, which is key to achieving the buy-in of the actual people implementing the program.