Prevention and Early Intervention Programs

OJJDP is committed to interrupting the cycle of violence through prevention and early intervention programs such as nurse home visitation, mentoring, and family support services.

Prenatal and Early Childhood Nurse Home Visitation

OJJDP is supporting implementation of the Prenatal and Early Childhood Nurse Home Visitation Program in six high-crime, urban areas. The program sends nurses to visit low-income, first-time mothers during their pregnancies. The nurses help women improve their health, making it more likely that their children will be born free of neurological problems. Several rigorous studies indicate that the nurse home visitation program reduces the risks for early antisocial behavior and prevents problems that lead to youth crime and delinquency, such as child abuse, maternal substance abuse, and maternal criminal involvement. Recent evidence shows that nurse home visitation even reduces juvenile offending.

Adolescents whose mothers received nurse home visitation services more than a decade earlier were 60 percent less likely than adolescents whose mothers had not received a nurse home visitor to have run away, 55 percent less likely to have been arrested, and 80 percent less likely to have been convicted of a crime. When the program focuses on low-income women, the public costs to fund the program are recovered by the time the first child reaches age 4, primarily because of the reduced number of subsequent pregnancies and related reductions in use of government welfare programs. By the time children from high-risk families reach age 15, the cost savings are four times the original investment because of reductions in crime, welfare expenditures, and healthcare costs and because of taxes paid by working parents.

Youth Mentoring

Another effective intervention is to enlist caring, responsible adults to work with at-risk youth in need of positive role models. Big Brothers/Big Sisters (BB/BS) mentoring programs, for example, have been matching volunteer adults with youth to help youth avoid the risky behaviors that compromise their health and safety. A 1995 study of BB/BS programs, conducted by Public/Private Ventures of Philadelphia, PA, revealed positive results. Mentored youth reported being 46 percent less likely to begin using drugs, 27 percent less likely to begin drinking, and approximately 33 percent less likely to hit someone than were their nonmentored counterparts. In addition, BB/BS programs had a positive effect on mentored youth's success at school.

OJJDP's Juvenile Mentoring Program (JUMP) provides one-to-one mentoring for youth at risk of delinquency, gang involvement, educational failure, or dropping out of school. Among its many objectives, JUMP seeks to discourage use of illegal drugs and firearms, involvement in violence and gangs, and other delinquent activity and encourage participation in service and community activity. The JUMP national evaluation will play an important role in expanding the body of information about mentoring. Preliminary evaluation findings reveal that both youth and mentors view the experience as positive.

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Juveniles and the Death PenaltyCoordinating Council on Juvenile Justice
and Delinquency Prevention
November 2000