CASASTART (Striving Together to Achieve Rewarding Tomorrows), formerly known as Children at Risk, is a community-based, intensive case management model designed to keep high-risk 11- to 13-year-old youths free of substance abuse and delinquent involvement. Specifically, CASASTART seeks to prevent and reduce drug and alcohol use, promote good school attendance and academic performance, lower the incidence of disruptive behavior at school, reduce drug-related crime and violence, and reduce delinquent behavior among high-risk youths, while increasing their opportunities to gain skills and achieve positive goals.
The program is designed to operate at three different levels: building resiliency and skills in children, strengthening families, and making neighborhoods safer for children and their families. The program reaches children early to reduce their chances of exposure to alcohol or drugs. CASASTART delivers integrated services to high-risk youths and their entire family. Case managers work closely with personnel from criminal justice agencies, schools, and other community organizations to provide services that target the high-risk youth and the groups that interact with that youth (e.g., peer group, family, and community risk factors). Each case manager serves 13 to 18 children and their families. Case review conferences are held every other week—along with quarterly administrative and advisory council meetings—to ensure all partners are up to date on the program and individual case status.
Each CASASTART program is managed and planned locally to be consistent with the values and cultural backgrounds of the local community. Every participating child receives all program services with the exception of juvenile justice services if he or she is not in trouble with the law. Although each program is locally tailored, all programs provide eight core service components:
- Social Support and Intensive Case Management: to allow case managers to develop individualized service plans and provide ongoing support to the youth and family
- Family Services: to include the youth’s family, identify service needs, and provide service referrals
- Education Services: to provide support such as tutoring and specialized programs
- Afterschool and Summer Activities: to provide recreational and cultural opportunities and facilitate positive peer group experiences
- Mentoring: to facilitate caring relationships with positive adult role models
- Incentives: to reinforce positive achievement and encourage participation in youth development activities
- Community-Oriented Policing: to foster a safer neighborhood environment
- Criminal Justice Intervention: to support system-involved youths and refer them to neighborhood resources
CASASTART is a 2-year program. During this time, the case manager, who typically works within local schools, arranges for and provides the aforementioned services to the high-risk youth.
Additional Information: Negative Program Effects
An outcome evaluation (described in Evaluation Methodology and Evaluation Outcomes) conducted by Mihalic and colleagues (2011) found harmful programmatic effects, especially when outcomes were examined by gender. No measurable benefits resulted for female CASASTART participants. In fact, females exhibited negative effects in prevalence and frequency behavioral measures. In addition, negative program effects appear to be heightened when accounting for implementation fidelity. Total and serious delinquency measures were higher for youths who stayed in the program for a longer period of time, and the difference was statistically significant.
11 to 13
The study by Harrell, Cavanagh, and Sridharan (1999) compared CASASTART participants with two different groups. The first was a randomly assigned control group within target neighborhoods (hereafter referred to as the control group). The second was a quasi-experimental comparison group selected from matched high-risk neighborhoods in four of the five cities (hereafter referred to as the comparison group). There were no statistically significant differences between CASASTART youths and youths in the quasi-experimental comparison group in outcome measures, and only some significant differences were found between CASASTART youths and the randomly assigned control group.
Drug Use and Selling
There were no statistically significant differences between CASASTART youths and youths in the quasi-experimental comparison group in drug use or selling outcomes. After the program, CASASTART youths had lower rates of drug use—a difference that was statistically significant compared with the randomly assigned control group youths. However, this reduction was primarily in gateway drug use. No significant differences were found for strong drug use. CASASTART participants were significantly less likely to have sold drugs in the past month or at any time compared with control group youths.
Violent and Property Crimes
Similar to the drug use and selling outcomes, there were no statistically significant differences between CASASTART youths and youths in the quasi-experimental comparison group in any violent or property crime outcome measures. At the 1-year follow-up, CASASTART youths had committed fewer violent crimes after the program’s end than control youths had committed, and the difference was statistically significant. However, there were no statistically significant differences between CASASTART youths and control group youths in regard to property crime. Reductions in property crime were not evident in either group.
There were no statistically significant differences between CASASTART youths and youths in the quasi-experimental comparison group in prosocial activity outcome measures. At the 1-year follow-up, CASASTART youths reported having significantly more positive peer support and significantly less association with delinquent peers than control group youths reported.
Mihalic, Huizinga, Ladika, Knight, and Dyer (2011) found harmful programmatic effects, especially when examining outcomes by gender. Female participants in CASASTART achieved no measurable benefits from the program and showed negative effects in prevalence and frequency behavioral measures.
Prevalence of Delinquency and Violence
Prevalence outcomes showed CASASTART youths were significantly more likely to be status offenders, truants, and sent to the principal’s office than control group youths. CASASTART youths also had significantly higher prevalence rates of disciplinary incidents compared with control group youths.
When the analysis was examined by gender, there were no significant differences in prevalence measures between CASASTART males and control group males. However, CASASTART females reported higher prevalence measures than control group females reported for total, serious, and minor delinquency, as well as for serious violence, status offenses, truancy, and arrests, and the difference was statistically significant. In other words, treatment group females had significantly poorer outcome results than control group females.
Frequency of Delinquency and Violence
Frequency outcomes showed CASASTART youths exhibited significantly less serious delinquency and total violence and had fewer serious property offenses and drug sales compared with control group youths. However, CASASTART youths had significantly more truancy incidents than control group youths.
When the analysis was examined by gender, several significant differences were found favoring treatment group males. CASASTART males reported significantly less total and serious delinquency and violence and fewer serious property offenses and arrests than control group males. However, it appears CASASTART had a negative effect on females in the program. CASASTART females reported significantly higher measures of total and minor delinquency, drug use, status offenses, sexual activity, arrests, truancy, and number of days suspended.
Effect of Fidelity on Problem Behaviors
When accounting for implementation fidelity, negative program effects appear to be heightened. Youths who stayed in the program for a longer period of time had higher measures of total and serious delinquency, and the difference was statistically significant. Girls who stayed in the CASASTART program for a longer period of time had higher measures of total, minor, and serious delinquency compared with girls in the control group. CASASTART boys had higher measures of serious delinquency and other drug use. Negative program effects were stronger (e.g., treatment boys had higher measures of serious delinquency and other drug use) at sites with greater fidelity adherence.
Prosocial Activities and Risk Factors
Differences between CASASTART youths and control group youths were not statistically significant in any prosocial activity or risk factor outcome measures.
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