The Strategic Home Intervention and Early Leadership Development (SHIELD) program, developed by the Westminster Police Department, in Orange County, California, is designed to accomplish two primary goals. First, it uses the contacts that police officers make in the course of their normal duties to identify youth who they think are likely to become involved in violent behavior, substance abuse, and gang activities. At-risk youth are identified as those who are exposed to family risk factors such as domestic violence and other criminal activities in the home. Second, SHIELD provides youth with services that are tailored to meet their individual needs by a multidisciplinary team of representatives from the community, schools, and service agencies. The primary mechanism that supports these goals is the youth referral process.
Police personnel are required to obtain the name, age, and school attended of any minor youth living in a home where a report is filed involving the following police activity: family violence of any type, neglect or abandonment, gang activity, drug sales or usage, arrests made associated with alcohol abuse, or any other call for service where the welfare of minor youth is at risk due to the behavior of older siblings or adults living in or frequenting the home. When the officer identifies a youth as having been exposed to risk factors, he or she marks a box on the police report and forwards a full copy of the report through departmental channels to the SHIELD resource officer (SRO). Risk assessment instruments are used by the SRO to classify youth in low-, medium-, or high-risk categories for both general delinquency and gang involvement. Separate instruments were created for youth at ages 6–11 and 12–14 to increase sensitivity to the differing effects of risk factors on youth at different developmental levels. In addition to these instruments, an inventory of protective factors is used to supplement the assessment. If the SRO deems a case appropriate for SHIELD intervention, he or she creates a student referral report, which contains a short synopsis of the incident as it pertains to the youth, demographic information about the youth and his or her family, contact information for the parents, and information from the assessments of both risk and protective factors. The SRO then sends the student referral report to the Youth and Family Resource Team.
This multidisciplinary team includes officials from the local school district, such as the pupil personnel administrator, the district nurse, a specialist in drug abuse prevention, and school principals; counseling staff from a community service provider; a county social worker; the Westminster Community Services Recreation Supervisor; the SRO; and a second officer. When the Youth and Family Resource Team receives the student referral report, the team members consider a range of school- and community-based treatment options and make recommendations for treatment services that are delivered by other agencies. Additional services are provided through the Westminster Youth Academy (formerly known as Warner Youth Leadership Academy), which the Westminster Police Department created in collaboration with local middle schools. This program is a school-based effort to improve academic performance and build leadership and planning skills, thereby enhancing the protective factors in the lives of at-risk youth. The Youth and Family Resource Team reassesses the treatment recommendations and progress of each youth three weeks after the initial recommendation. While a youth is involved in treatment, the service providers send monthly progress reports to the SHIELD staff at the Westminster Police Department. These reports allow for ongoing tracking and reassessment of the services provided to program youth.
In a formative evaluation of the program, of 43 randomly selected youth who were tracked during the first year of operation, 60 percent received services of some kind, 26 percent could not be contacted because they were no longer in the community (e.g., the family had relocated or the youth had run away), and 14 percent were still in the community but did not receive services because of parental refusal. The evaluation included a qualitative assessment of participant satisfaction with the counseling provided through SHIELD, and the results were promising. The findings from the evaluation of the Westminster Youth Academy also reflect positively on the SHIELD program. SHIELD youth who participated in the Academy significantly improved in attendance and grade-point average relative both to their own earlier performance and to the performance of a comparison group of non-Academy students. Although very promising, the results of these evaluations are short-term and are limited to a portion of the youth engaged in the program.
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention: Promising program
Chief Andrew E. Hall
Westminster Police Department
8200 Westminster Boulevard
Westminster, CA 92683
Phone: (714) 898-3315, ext. 302
Wyrick, P. A. (2000). “Law Enforcement Referral of At-Risk Youth: The SHIELD Program.” Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Wyrick, P. A., and Kent, D. R. (1998). Delinquency Prevention Through Police and School Collaboration: Program Outcomes of the Warner Youth Leadership Academy. Westminster, CA: City of Westminster Police Department, Research and Planning Office.