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Schools And Families Educating Children (SAFEChildren)


Intervention; Ages 6–12


(Read the criteria for this rating)

Effective delinquency program


Schools And Families Educating Children (SAFEChildren) is a family-focused preventive intervention designed to increase academic achievement and decrease risk for later drug abuse and associated problems such as aggression, school failure, and low social competence. Initially targeting first-grade children and their families living in inner-city Chicago neighborhoods, SAFEChildren has two components. The first component is a multiple-family group approach that focuses on parenting skills, family relationships, understanding and managing developmental and situational challenges, increasing parental support, skills and issues in engaging as a parent with the school, and managing issues such as neighborhood problems (e.g., violence). Families participate in 20 weekly sessions (2 to 2.5 hours each) led by a trained, professional family group leader. The second component is a reading tutoring program for the child. Each tutoring session involves segments on phonics, sound and word activities, and reading books. Tutoring is provided twice weekly (one 30-minute and one 20-minute session) over 20 weeks, using a modified version of the Wallach program. The program serves both genders and Black and Hispanic/Latino children.

Children who received the intervention improved in overall reading ability at a more rapid rate than did those who did not receive the intervention. Among families designated as high-risk, there was a significantly greater improvement in parental monitoring for those who received the SAFEChildren intervention than for those who did not receive the intervention. Among high-risk children (having high levels of problem behaviors at pretest), SAFEChildren participants showed a decrease in aggression, whereas those who did not receive the intervention had a slight increase in aggression.

Risk Factors

Antisocial/delinquent beliefs
Conduct disorders (authority conflict/rebellious/stubborn/disruptive/antisocial)
Early and persistent noncompliant behavior
Early onset of aggression/violence
General delinquency involvement
High alcohol/drug use
Lack of guilt and empathy
Low intelligence quotient
Low perceived likelihood of being caught
Mental health problems
Poor refusal skills
Victim of child maltreatment
Victimization and exposure to violence
Abusive parents
Antisocial parents
Broken home/changes in caretaker
Child maltreatment (abuse or neglect)
Family poverty/low family socioeconomic status
Family violence (child maltreatment, partner violence, conflict)
High parental stress/maternal depression
Lived/living with a gang member
Parent proviolent attitudes
Parental use of physical punishment/harsh and/or erratic discipline practices
Poor parental supervision (control, monitoring, and child management)
Poor parent-child relations or communication
Unhappy parents
Frequent school transitions
Frequent truancy/absences/suspensions; expelled from school; dropping out of school
Identified as learning disabled
Low academic aspirations
Low achievement in school
Low school attachment/bonding/motivation/commitment to school
Old for grade/repeated a grade
Poor student-teacher relations
Poorly defined rules and expectations for appropriate conduct
Student failure in the first grade
Unsafe schools
Availability of firearms
Community disorganization
Economic deprivation/poverty/residence in a disadvantaged neighborhood
Feeling unsafe in the neighborhood
Low neighborhood attachment
Moved to a new neighborhood
Neighborhood youth in trouble
Association with antisocial/aggressive/delinquent peers; high peer delinquency
Peer rejection


National Registry of Effective Programs and Practices: Effective program

National Gang Center: Effective program

National Dropout Prevention Center/Network, Clemson University: Effective program

SAMHSA’s Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies (2016): Effective program


Patrick H. Tolan Ph.D.
Director, Youth-Nex | The UVA Center to Promote Effective Youth Development
Professor, Curry School of Education and Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences
One Morton Drive, Room 300-12
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Phone: (434) 243-9551
E-mail: [email protected]
Web site: https://education.virginia.edu/patrick-h-tolan


Gorman-Smith, D., Tolan, P. H., Henry, D. B., Leventhal, A., Schoeny, M., Lutovsky, K., and Quintana, E. (2002). Predictors of participation in a family-focused preventive intervention for substance use. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 16(Suppl. 4), S55–S64.

Tolan, P., Gorman-Smith, D., and Henry, D. (2004). Supporting families in a high-risk setting: Proximal effects of the SAFEChildren preventive intervention. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72, 855–869.

Date Created: April 7, 2021