"[Gangs] always prey on kids who are new to an area or are looking for someone who they can relate to.” - Ed Ryan, Fairfax County Gang Prevention Coordinator (article)
Gangs exist across the U.S., spreading crime and recruiting vulnerable youth in neighborhoods once thought impermeable to such influence. They can appear to offer vulnerable youth very tangible "benefits": identity, family and a place to go where "everyone knows your name." Unfortunately, what can at first seem great to recruits and members is destructive to neighborhoods and communities as well as to the individual.
NVFS' Intervention, Prevention and Education (IPE) program was developed in an intensive effort to reduce youth violence and counteract the appeal of gang membership in Northern Virginia among language and ethnic minority children ages 10 to 21. The IPE program helps youth who are vulnerable to recruitment by gangs develop the skills to resist joining and that their parents and community members are able to provide the necessary support and structure.
Intervention: IPE seeks to intervene in the lives of young people who are either gang members or at risk of becoming so. It addresses the issues in a young person's life that make him or her vulnerable: poor school achievement or involvement, feeling alienated from family and community, and involvement with negative peers.
Prevention involves getting youth plugged into positive environments and activities. Since the allure of belonging to a group can be a gang's most powerful selling point, helping vulnerable youth find those positive activities and connections is a critical task. Counselors help with academics, social involvement and setting goals for a future.
Education in IPE involves not only the young person, but parents, guardians and family members as well. It equips the young person to find alternatives to destructive behaviors and tendencies, and helps parents and guardians improve and practice supportive and beneficial responses. It gives the family ways to respond to various situations in a positive way and increases community awareness of gangs and how to effectively support youth to make positive choices.
57% of IPE participants reduce their gang-involved activity, and 78% of all NVFS youth clients improve their school performance (according to data from fiscal year 2015). The majority of youth who participate in IPE show a reduction in gang activity and improvement the following areas: academic success; family relationships; and pro-social activity. IPE participants also learn employment skills (and receive guidance in finding work), how to implement effective problem solving and decision making skills, how to identify personal strengths and apply those towards the achievement of goals, and how to identify and maintain positive peer relationships.
Where are services available?
- City of Alexandria
- Arlington County
- Fairfax County
- Loudoun County
- Prince William County
How does it work?
IPE Counselors work one on one with youth to identify their short- and long-term goals, their resource and referral needs, and their unique gang-intervention needs.
In addition, the IPE Counselor works with the youth’s parents or guardians to increase effective communication and appropriate limit-setting, to provide education about the signs of gang involvement and to provide information about the ways families can support their children so that they are less vulnerable to gang recruitment.
Referrals for any needed services are provided, ensuring that families are connected to a supportive network and to the formal and informal resources in their community.
Kate Reen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 571.748.2808