Monday, January 9, 2012

I propose Fatherhood Outreach Workers to combat youth violence

Criminologists, the Boston Police Department, Street Workers and others have general agreement that the universe of "involved" youth is less than 1,000 in Boston. That includes "impact players", their "boys", wannabees, siblings at risk of getting involved, etc.

I'm proposing that we have intermediaries - fatherhood outreach workers - who would help youth and dads negotiate their relationship/reunion, as well as help the mothers and fathers negotiate their relations. (If mom wants nothing to do with the dad, that outreach worker can be the intermediary.) In some cases, these intermediaries might facilitate a visit to a dad in prison.
Let's suppose that 20% of that 1,000 DO have fathers in their lives and are still involved in violence. Engaging their dad will make no difference. That leaves 800.
Let's say my fatherhood street workers only achieve success 25% of the time. That's 200. Too optimistic? OK, how about 1-in-5 (20%): that's 160. Remember, my proposed success rates are far below what's expected in any human services program; and I knocked the pool down by 20% at the beginning.

There is no doubt in my mind that if we actually did re-engage that 20 or 25%, those dads would have more influence and give more time to their youth than what most mentoring programs ask or can deliver. And there is no program/initiative in this city that can mobilize 160 men to work with proven risk youth. Not the city's Street Workers. Not StreetSafe. Not Ten Point nor the other ministers. Not the survivors community. And I am not in any way criticizing their good work! This is simply the math talking.

The reason why you could have an 80% failure rate and still be successful is because the initial pool is so large - 1 potential dad for each youth. This is also a great example of my view that in tackling social issues we must literally "do the math"; collect real data and stop making assumptions based on "conventional wisdom."

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