Success for Kids (SFK) was an afterschool program that sought to build resilience in children by teaching them to access inner resources and build positive connections with others. The programs goals of the SFK curriculum were:
- To increase children’s sense of empowerment about their ability to influence their future
- To provide the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to make positive choices
- To increase caring and empathy
- To improve the quality of family interaction, including communication, doing activities together, sharing, and asking permission
- To increase happiness
Target Population/Program Theory
The curriculum was geared toward children ages 6 to 14, and targeted kids living in lower-income communities and those challenged by poor school performance, crime, and lack of community services (though none of these factors is a requirement for participation). The program theory underlying SFK is that resilience, or the ability to overcome adverse circumstances in daily life, is a universal quality rather than a quality that only some children possess. The curriculum focused on four areas of personal strength: social competence, problem solving, autonomy or self-efficacy, and the sense of purpose.
The level-1 SFK course (called The Game of Life) consisted of ten 90-minute lessons that are typically run over a 10-week period. The course was built on the analogy that, as in a game, the challenges we overcome in life bring a sense of achievement. Children were taught they can “win the game” and realize their potential when they follow the “rules,” which include making an effort, caring for others, and making responsible choices. The 10 lesson plans were:
- What Do We Want?
- Making Choices
- Making an Effort
- Caring for Others
- Feelings and Behavior
- We Are All Connected
- Cause and Effect
- Telling People You Care
- Review and Graduation
The course was experiential in nature, using teaching methods that include stories, puppets, music, performance, and hands-on activities to address auditory, kinesthetic, and visual learning styles. All topic areas taught in the SFK curriculum were continually reinforced within a lesson and across all subsequent lessons in the course.
6 to 14
Maestas and Gaillot (2010) noted that because of the possibility of attrition bias, treatment effects at follow-up should be viewed as only suggestive. The results looked at the full sample of observations as well as a subsample of valid observations only (invalid response patterns, about 25 percent of the sample, were excluded).
Overall, the teacher reports showed there were significant treatment effects of the Success for Kids (SFK) program on some of the individual and composite scales at the posttest, but most effects dissipated by the 12-week follow-up. Of the 10 individual clinical scales (aggression, anxiety, attention problems, atypicality, conduct problems, depression, hyperactivity, learning problems, somatization, and withdrawal), the results showed that the SFK program caused statistically significant reduction in 1 scale (attention problems). When observations with invalid response patterns are excluded, the SFK program is associated with a significant reduction in 4 of the 10 clinical scales (attention problems, atypicality, hyperactivity, and withdrawal). Also, four of the five adaptive scales (adaptability, functional communication, leadership, and study skills) showed statistically significant treatment effects.
On the composite scales, there was a significant effect of the SFK program on adaptive skills (a summary of scales measuring appropriate emotional expression and control; communication skills; and prosocial, organization, and study skills). The treatment effects were statistically significant when all observations were examined and when only valid observations were examined, meaning there were greater reductions in negative outcomes for the treatment group. However, the effects were not statistically significant by the 12-week follow-up test.
For the behavioral symptom index (a composite measure of the overall level of problem behavior), there was a statically significant decline in negative behavior for the treatment group, but only when examining the valid observations subsample. By the 12-week follow-up, treatment effects had increased and were significant for all observations as well as for valid observations only. The results for the externalizing problems scale (a composite of the scales measuring disruptive behaviors) showed there were significant treatment effects of the SFK program at posttest, but only for the subsample of valid observations. The effects dissipate, and they were nonsignificant at the 12-week follow-up. For the internalizing problems scale (a composite of scales measuring overly controlled behaviors), there were no significant treatment effects at the posttest, but there was a significant treatment effect for the full sample of observations at the follow-up.
Finally, for the scale for school problems (a composite of scales measuring academic difficulties, including motivation, attention, learning, and cognition), the treatment effects of SFK were significant in the full sample and valid-observation sample at the posttest, but were not significant for either group at the follow-up.
The study authors also noted their doubt about the validity of the child self-report data because of the large number of invalid response patterns, the lower reliability coefficients, and the potential for nonresponse bias. However, they estimated the treatment effects of the SFK program based on available data. The results showed that, for the full sample at posttest, there was just one statistically significant treatment effect (the atypicality scale, which is the tendency toward bizarre thoughts or other thoughts and behaviors considered odd). However, the effect is not in the expected direction, implying detrimental program effects (the treatment group did worse than the control group). When looking at the valid observations subsample, there are no significant differences between the groups on the atypicality scale. The only statistically significant scale was self-esteem, where the treatment group showed a greater gain than the control group.
At the 12-week follow-up, only one clinical scale showed statistically significant treatment effects of SFK for the full sample of observations (attitude to teachers), meaning the treatment group showed a greater reduction in the negative outcome than the control group. When examining the valid observations subsample, only one scale showed a significant treatment effect (atypicality), where again the treatment group showed a greater reduction in the negative outcome than the control group.
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