YouthZone programs get high marks | AspenTimes.com

YouthZone programs get high marks

An organization that helps troubled kids in the Roaring Fork Valley is doing a great job even though its clients are coming in with bigger problems than ever before, according to an independent evaluation.

YouthZone proved to be highly effective in designing individual treatment programs for 762 kids it helped between 1999 and 2002, according to Shelley Molz, an evaluator. She designed and analyzed surveys that were given to kids and their families when they first entered YouthZone programs and when they completed them.

“The major conclusion is this is a pretty amazing agency,” said Molz. She said it is successful because it tailors programs to the kids instead of plugging them into rigid treatments.

The study evaluated YouthZone’s effectiveness in five areas – decreased delinquent behavior, decreased use of illegal drugs, increased self-perception, increased positive decision-making and increased positive social skills.

“In the 1999-2002 evaluation, YouthZone was able to make a scientifically significant impact on five of the five measured areas,” said Molz’s assessment.

The same type of assessment by Molz between 1995 and 1998 showed YouthZone to be effective in only three of the five areas. The staff took those results to heart and made changes designed to improve, she said.

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Molz said the improvement is even more impressive because the kids referred to

n See YouthZone on page 7

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YouthZone are facing a greater variety of problems these days. In the last evaluation period in the mid-1990s, kids often came to YouthZone with one issue to deal with – poor performance in school, for example, or a juvenile DUI.

“Now we’re seeing kids coming in with layers of issues,” said Molz.

Drugs or alcohol are a common problem. About 24 percent of YouthZone clients committed another offenses during or after treatment. Just about all of the repeat offenders were guilty of drug or alcohol infractions, Molz said.

However, she noted that surveys also showed that YouthZone was effective in helping many kids deal with drugs and alcohol, as reported by the kids. Molz said the 76 percent success rate of avoiding repeat infractions of any type was impressive.

Many of the kids referred to YouthZone had been involved in serious violations of the law as well as drug and alcohol issues. Referrals come from judges and district attorneys from the Roaring Fork Valley and Interstate 70 corridor, schools or families.

The evaluation also found that:

n Nearly two-thirds of the kids served are males.

n The ethnic makeup of the clients has remained consistent over the last six years. In the latest evaluation period over the last three years, 84 percent of youth served were Anglo; 15 percent Latino and 1 percent “other.” Molz said those figures track almost exactly with U.S. Census figures for the valley.

n The average age of youth served was 15.

n About 50 percent of youth served are being raised by both biological parents.

YouthZone’s high marks come at a time when it is facing funding troubles. It lost about $300,000 – or about one-third of its budget – when Gov. Bill Owens and the Legislature slashed the state budget last summer. The state is tightening up even more for its 2003-04 fiscal year.

YouthZone has adjusted by scaling back some programs and implementing fees for some others.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com.]

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