Collaborative Efforts to Address Youth Violence

In response to the recent killing of a 16 year old Chicago honor student, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)/CDC, the Department of Education (ED), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) started work to address youth violence. Because of connections facilitated by the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, they were able to learn that CDC was working with local and state organizations and agencies to develop a comprehensive approach to youth violence prevention. HUD identified a public housing authority representative locally to be involved in those conversations; ED identified the project director of the local grantee of ED’s Safe Schools/Healthy Students program, who was connected to the local efforts as well. As a result of the coordination facilitated by the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, ED and HUD were able to connect to an existing process rather than duplicating efforts by creating their own; the overall process was strengthened as a result.

To address the growing problem of youth violence in the city, several federal agencies and departments attended a meeting hosted by the Commissioner of Chicago's Department of Public Health and attended by representatives from Chicago's mayor's office, public schools, police department, family support services, and many other youth serving organizations. This meeting provided federal leaders with an opportunity to hear directly from community leaders about their policy, data sharing, and program recommendations and allowed them to share some of their youth violence prevention activities, such as strengthening surveillance (National Violent Death Reporting System), building community partnerships (Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth through Violence Prevention; UNITY), and developing and evaluating prevention efforts (Academic Centers of Excellence on Youth Violence Prevention; ACE Program).

The National Public Health Strategy to Prevent Youth Violence and Lynk were presented as initiatives under development, and these received positive feedback and were stated to have all the critical elements to help a community such as Chicago. The recently released Guide for Preventing School Violence is another important resource with guidance for schools, communities, families, law enforcement, and the justice system.

The National Public Health Strategy to Prevent Youth Violence is a coordinated and comprehensive approach to the implementation and evaluation of evidenced-informed strategies that reduce rates of youth violence. CDC is including four critical themes and related strategies:

  • Strengthening youth’s skills and internal resources, including conflict resolution skills, leadership potential, and self-confidence.
  • Building and supporting positive relationships between youth and adults including parents, caregivers, teachers, and community mentors.
  • Promoting thriving, safer, and more connected communities by having community programs that foster academic and vocational skill development and violence prevention through environmental design.
  • Creating a safer and healthier society with multi-sector and multi-disciplinary approaches and evidence informed violence prevention policy.

Lynk is an online, interactive youth violence prevention resource center created by CDC. The site will offer the essential “how to" that enables local government and community leaders to plan, implement, and assess their youth violence prevention efforts. Lynk will provide:

  • Interactive training on key elements of youth violence prevention and strategic planning, allowing all types of violence prevention planners, program staff, and researchers to move from research to practice.
  • Personalized community workspaces that guide violence prevention planners through a step-by-step process to develop a comprehensive youth violence prevention plan.
  • Networking and collaboration tools to connect individual communities to other cities, towns, and communities who are working to prevent youth violence.
  • Personalized tracking tools to automatically organize and track each community’s efforts, showing their personalized goals and objectives for prevention.
  • State-of-the-art resources with hundreds of published documents from a variety of federal agencies on youth violence prevention topics so users are in constant contact with the latest research and initiatives.

The Second Edition of the Guide for Preventing School Violence was just released from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. Designed to assist local communities, the guide describes the roles of the school, community, families, law enforcement, and justice system in working together to take effective action to address school violence. The guide addresses school violence prevention, threat assessment, crisis planning, preparation, and action, legal considerations, and working with the media.