Youth Violence Prevention

Across America, children are witnessing and experiencing violence at alarming rates. According to the Defending Childhood report issued in December 2012, exposure to violence is a national crisis that affects approximately two out of every three of our children. Of the 76 million children currently residing in the United States, an estimated 46 million can expect to have their lives touched by violence, crime, abuse, and psychological trauma this year. Whether the violence occurs in children’s homes, neighborhoods or schools, exposure to violence is a uniquely traumatic experience that has lasting impacts on health, education, and emotional stability well into adulthood.

In addition to the human costs of unaddressed exposure to violence, the financial costs are enormous. According to a 2009 report by the Academy on Violence and Abuse, the incremental cost of violence and abuse on the healthcare system alone ranges from $333- $750 billion annually, or up to 37½ cents of every dollar spent on health care. The financial burden on other public systems — child welfare, social services, law enforcement and justice, and education, in particular — combined with the loss of productivity over lifetimes is incalculable.

In 2012, Philadelphia’s homicide rate reached its highest level since 2007. Of particular concern to Stoneleigh are the following facts: homicide is the leading cause of death for young black males; the number of deaths in Philadelphia is almost equal to the number of deaths in the 10 years of war in Iraq; 77% of the young people seen in the violence prevention program Healing Hurt People suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

There is a need to understand and address the intergenerational cycle of violence in Philadelphia. Equally as great is the need to identify and treat those youth exposed to violence so that the systems designed to serve them don’t unintentionally deny any child the opportunity to become successful students, productive workers, and responsible family members, parents, and citizens.Stoneleigh knows that through our fellows we can help prevent the long-term, negative outcomes of exposure to violence and protect the basic civil right of safety for all of our children. There are many other possible solutions, and we welcome your ideas.

Challenges

Solutions

Advance Public Health Solutions to Violence

Violence is a leading cause of injury and premature death in this country, creating high costs to the healthcare, child welfare, juvenile justice and other systems serving youth. Violence is also a factor in the development of poor health outcomes and contributes to overall health disparities. However, a growing body of research and practice has demonstrated that most violence is preventable. Leading practice recognizes that violence is a public health problem and thus demands a public health response.

Improve School Safety and Climate

A growing number of violent incidents occur in schools, creating a school climate that impedes learning and feeds the cycle of violence in communities. In the wake of failed zero tolerance policies, school districts are reassessing their disciplinary practices. To make our schools safer and improve overall school climate, school systems must move away from fragmented, reactionary and narrow policies and toward prevention-oriented approaches informed by best practices. Integrated policies that work to develop resilient and engaged students should supplant those that rely on suspension and expulsion, which can drive students out of school and into the juvenile justice system.

Advance Community-wide Solutions to Prevent Youth Violence

Localities struggling with high levels of youth violence must have comprehensive plans and coordinated strategies to successfully reduce violence. Strong leadership, shared data, and community informed approaches that rely on multiple stakeholders are needed to reverse the intergenerational cycles of violence. We recognize that local government and communities need to build capacity and harness resources to more effectively respond to violence. Stoneleigh’s Chara Cooper Haas Violence Prevention fellow leads a multi-disciplinary collaborative to develop and implement a youth violence prevention strategy for the City of Philadelphia.