Project to reduce risk factors for violence among high-risk families in Honduras
January 20, 2016
Washington, D.C. — Families in five of Honduras’ most dangerous municipalities will be part of a new initiative to reduce factors that lead to violence in youth ages 8 to 17, Creative Associates International announced. (www.CreativeAssociatesInternational.com)
Funded by the United States Agency for International Development, the three-year project called “Proponte Más” will identify and work with 800 families and their youth ages 8 to 17 who are empirically at the highest risk of joining gangs.
Proponte Más will first identify participants using the Youth Service Eligibility Tool (YSET)—a method adapted and field tested during Creative’s USAID-funded pilot of Proponte. Youth are evaluated based on a series of nine risk factors at a family, peer and individual level domain.
“Our previous work has proven that it is critically important to provide different approaches to families and youth at different levels of risks,” says Enrique Roig, who leads Creative’s Citizen Security practice area. “The percentage of youth and families that engage in violence associated with gangs is relatively small, even in the neighborhoods with the most infamous history of violence in Honduras.”
Roig says that based on empirical evidence a one-size-fits-all approach is “counter indicated” and the goal of the project is to “match the right medicine to the right level of risk.”
Honduras’ homicide rate is already among the world’s highest—66 per 100,000 residents—but in some of Honduras’ most isolated communities the actual murder rate can be more than doubled the national average.
Youth are both the primary victims and perpetrators of this violence. Guillermo Cespedes, Deputy Chief of Party for the project, says that the epidemic level of violence is one factor driving recent peaks in the migration of families and unaccompanied minors north as they search for an escape.
Working along with Creative are international and local organizations with expertise in evidence-based secondary prevention, alternative justice and place-based strategy implementation. These groups include Arizona State University, the University of Southern California, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras, Casa Alianza Honduras and Centro de Prevención de la Violencia.
Robyn Braverman, who brings 15 years of experience managing large international development programs for youth and promoting alternative justice measures, will lead the project in Honduras.
Evidence-based, proven success
The approach of Proponte Más is evidence-based, relying on empirical risk factors to determine which youth are eligible for the program and considered the most at risk for gang activity.
Follow-up assessments after 6 months and 12 months will measure the youth on the same risk factors, allowing for comparison of risk levels over time.
In Creative’s previous USAID-funded Proponte pilot, this approach reduced youth risk factors significantly at the end of the one-year period—including a 77 percent drop in the crime and substance abuse risk factor and a 78 percent drop in antisocial tendencies.
To ensure sustainability of the approach, the project will also work closely with the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras to build its capacity to analyze YSET results.
In addition to its secondary prevention expertise, Creative has supported at-risk communities across Central America in developing and implementing local violence prevention strategies.
Through Creative’s more than 200 USAID-funded Outreach Centers in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama, more than 70,000 youth have benefited from vocational training, life skills, tutoring support, and access to a safe place away from the violence.
Supporting the family is at the core of Proponte Más’ approach as each youth is part of a broader family structure that affects his/her behavior and level of risk, says Cespedes, who is also the former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles and Director of the Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development.
Though due to transnational migration, violence and other factors, families are not always defined in the traditional sense, he explains. It is important to take that into account and work with existing relational support systems.
“The families in these high-risk neighborhoods have shown that despite the economic hardships, the impact of migration and the ever present violence, they are most valuable partners in keeping their children safe,” says Cespedes. “While we must continue the work of building safer communities, and providing youth with educational and job opportunities, our mission in this program is to serve families because they are the most important entity in the life of the youth as well as the glue that holds together the fabric of community.”
Using 50 trained and certified family counselors, Proponte Más will work in close partnership with the families of high-risk youth to establish positive relations and behaviors to lower the youth’s risk factors. Through its family-centered approach, the project will also work to lower levels of gender-based and family-based household violence.
Alternative justice measures
While reaching youth on the verge of joining gangs is critical, it is equally important to support an even smaller subset of youth who have already come in conflict with the law or are facing incarceration, says Robyn Braverman, Chief of Party for the project .
On this tertiary level, the project will reach 500 to 700 first time or nonviolent juvenile offenders.
“We understand that some youth need a time out. Typically, youth who are sent into the penal system become more hardened criminals, so our mission is to provide alternatives to incarceration,” says Braverman.
These youth will be assessed using the Social Embeddedness Tool (SET) to determine the individual’s level of fusion, disengagement or self-differentiation from the core identity of the illicit group he/she has joined.
Working with the government of Honduras, family courts and civil society partners, Proponte Más will also help build capacity to provide evidence-based and family-centered support to youth who are re-entering their communities to improve their chances of reintegration after a period of incarceration.