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January/February 2004   
Volume III Number 1  
In this Issue
right side navagation bar Truancy Reduction New Publications Coordinating Council Videoconference Funding Update Youth Summit Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

      J. Robert Flores
  OJJDP Administrator

Truancy Reduction:
Keeping Youth in School and Out of Trouble

Truancy has long been identified as an early warning sign of potential delinquent behavior, social isolation, and educational failure. Several studies have concluded that lack of commitment to school is a risk factor for substance abuse, delinquency, teen pregnancy, and dropping out. The effects of truancy are pervasive—the problem takes its toll not only on students, but also on schools and communities.

In 1998, OJJDP, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Weed and Seed, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Safe and Drug-Free Schools Office initiated the Truancy Reduction Demonstration Program. The goal of the program is to encourage communities to develop comprehensive approaches to identifying and tracking truant youth and reducing truancy.

The Truancy Reduction Demonstration Program has been implemented in seven sites: Contra Costa County, CA; Jacksonville, FL; Honolulu, HI; Yaphank, NY; Houston, TX; Seattle, WA; and Tacoma, WA. The sites vary in size—serving anywhere from 30 to 1,500 youth—and are diverse in geographic location, ethnic and sociodemographic makeup, and community-based leadership. The program has served more than 2,000 youth and more than 1,100 families.

A key concept in this initiative is collaboration among community members, which is important because it produces a shared vision, maximizes existing resources, and results in a blend of services to address the range of issues related to truancy. Programs are overseen at the community level by a multiagency group. Participation in this collaborative by schools, law enforcement, and courts is essential for success in reducing truancy. Collaborative participants are also drawn from social services agencies, health organizations, probation, businesses, and faith-based organizations. An evaluation of the Truancy Reduction Demonstration Program (see below) has found that stability of the oversight collaborative is critical to success. Involvement of parents in all truancy reduction activities is also crucial.

Communities participating in this initiative are implementing a variety of programs that link truant youth with community-based services and programs. Examples of activities include community truancy boards, truancy workshops, and community awareness campaigns. Truancy case managers usually work directly with youth and families, making home visits, monitoring school attendance, providing tutoring, and referring youth and families to community agencies as needed.

OJJDP is funding an evaluation of the Truancy Reduction Demonstration Program, conducted by the National Center for School Engagement at the Colorado Foundation for Families and Children in Denver, CO (see sidebar below). All seven sites have participated in the evaluation. Speaking at the November 2003 meeting of the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (see article), Ken Seeley, President and Chief Executive Officer, Colorado Foundation for Families and Children, highlighted findings from the evaluation and noted several components of promising truancy reduction efforts (see sidebar below). Mr. Seeley observed that there is no “silver bullet.” Truancy programs must be locally designed and based on community needs and best practices. Truancy reduction should not be the responsibility of one agency—solutions require a wide range of participants from many disciplines.

Expanding its truancy reduction efforts, OJJDP recently awarded a grant to the National Truancy Prevention Association to provide training and technical assistance to communities implementing truancy reduction programs (see Funding Update). The Association assists communities in developing and sustaining effective truancy prevention practices, promoting a collaborative approach to help increase school attendance, combat truancy, and improve the lives of children and families.

For more information about the Truancy Reduction Demonstration Program, including evaluation results, visit www.truancyprevention.org. A recent OJJDP videoconference on truancy reduction efforts can be viewed at www.trc.eku.edu/jj/archive.html. Additional information about truancy is available on the OJJDP Web site Topics page.

National Center for School Engagement

The mission of the National Center for School Engagement (NCSE), a program of the Colorado Foundation for Families and Children, is to promote school engagement and truancy prevention to ensure success in school. NCSE’s goals are to identify the essential elements of truancy model programs in schools, courts, and communities; to determine how community collaboration affects truancy reduction interventions; and to demonstrate outcomes of truancy interventions. Established in 1999 and supported by OJJDP, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Weed and Seed, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Safe and Drug-Free Schools Office, NCSE provides research-based information and identifies best practices for addressing truancy.

For the last 4 years, NCSE has been conducting a process evaluation of the Truancy Reduction Demonstration Program that has now shifted to an outcome evaluation to determine program results at the seven demonstration sites. NCSE has created an online data collection system to track the demographics, needs, service referrals, juvenile justice involvement, and disciplinary incidents of truant students in the demonstration sites. Student outcomes are evaluated according to measures of school attendance, attachment, and achievement.

For more information, visit
www.truancyprevention.org.
National Center for School Engagement
Promoting Truancy Prevention & School Success

Components of Promising Truancy Reduction Efforts

Consistent attendance policy and practice, known to all students, parents, staff, and community agencies.
A continuum of prevention and intervention services, along with incentives and graduated sanctions for students and parents.
Meaningful parental involvement.
Special attention to health (e.g., providing onsite responses for asthmatic children, meeting special education needs).
Data-driven decisionmaking.
Student attendance review boards.
Quasi-judicial proceedings.
Business involvement.
Focus on school transition years.
Public awareness campaigns.


The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office for Victims of Crime.


News @ a Glance is OJJDP’s bimonthly newsletter, bringing you up-to-date notices of agency activities, recent publications, funding opportunities, and upcoming events—with an emphasis on providing quick access to online sources for publications and other resources. Let us know what types of features would be most useful to you (e-mail askjj@ncjrs.org).

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NCJ 203557