New program to empower Caribbean communities to better service at-risk youth
July 25, 2016
Family support networks and government agencies in 10 Caribbean countries that provide violence prevention services to at-risk youth will receive training and other resources through a new program, Creative Associates International announced.
The four-year program—called Community, Families and Youth Resilience—will adapt successful approaches to reduce crime and increase opportunities for youth across the Eastern Caribbean, including juvenile offenders and those most at risk for becoming involved in gang violence and crime.
Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the program seeks to improve the ability of national and local government, community-based family support networks and local service providers to deliver violence prevention services to at-risk youth.
“It is important to offer targeted support to youth facing different levels of risk,” says Enrique Roig, Director of Citizen Security at Creative. “This project provides a holistic set of interventions so that youth, their families and communities get the specific support they need to lower risk factors for violence and strengthen protective factors.”
The program focuses on the six independent countries that comprise the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (including Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines), as well as Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname.
Creative will implement the project in partnership with the Pan American Development Foundation, YouthBuild International and the University of Southern California.
Reaching youth at all risk levels
While the countries of the Eastern and Southern Caribbean have had historically high levels of development, recent years have seen high rates of youth unemployment and violent crime in the area. Because of its location, the Caribbean has been a transit point for illegal drugs and weapons traveling from producers in northern South America to consumers in the U.S. and Europe.
While drug transit has abated in the last few years, the resulting crime and violence has persisted. High youth unemployment and a lack of psychosocial support resources for youth have exacerbated the problem and contributed to a cycle of violence.
Creative draws on a proven citizen security policy framework used successfully in programs in Central America, including the USAID-funded Alianza Joven Honduras (Youth Alliance Honduras) violence prevention project and Proponte Más, a secondary violence prevention program which applies family counseling to help reduce the risk factors of youth most at risk for joining gangs.
As in Central American countries, Creative will use a holistic public health, place-based approach to support youth and lower youth risk factors for violence in the Caribbean.
The public health model focuses on targeting intervention activities across three risk-differentiated groups—including the general population of youth in at-risk area, youth at the highest risk for violence, and youth offenders— and serves as a complement to criminal justice interventions.
The place-based strategy focuses complementary prevention activities to a set geographical area. It brings the public health model to life by using accurate data to develop crime and violence prevention plans, apply tools to measure levels of risk, and design interventions to reduce risk factors, including lack of psychosocial support and vocational skills.
“By concentrating resources in an at-risk neighborhood and applying evidence-based strategies that focus on places, people and behaviors, we expect to improve the security situation in the target countries” says Roig
Rare opportunity to prevent violence escalation
Communities in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean are at a crossroads. While homicides rates have increased over the past 12 years, they have yet to reach the levels experienced in the Northern Triangle (Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala) and Panama, where Creative and its partners have made measurable differences in the lives of at-risk youth.
The program has an opportunity to lower risk factors that lead youth to violence and unite communities, youth, police and others in achieving sustainable reduction in youth crime and violence.
By applying its specialized expertise and leveraging an evidence-based practices, Creative will achieve measurable results in reducing youths’ risk factors for crime and violence by, for example, improving the workforce readiness, providing prevention services, fostering social and leadership skills through civic participation.