The purpose of Truancy and Assessment Service Centers (TASC) is to provide early identification and assessment of truant children and the prompt delivery of coordinated interventions to prevent continued unauthorized school absences. The TASC centers aim to reduce truancy for children in Grades K–5 by screening them to identify those at high risk for truancy and other academic/behavioral problems, conducting assessments to determine the needs of the child and family, and mandating participation of the child and family in appropriate interventions. The long-term goal of the TASC centers is to reduce school dropouts and delinquent behavior.
TASC is a program intervention for interrupting the cycle of early truancy, continued academic and behavioral problems in school, eventual school dropout and delinquent behavior development, and reducing other negative effects of the truant behavior pattern, such as teen pregnancy and adolescent substance abuse. The TASC centers identify, assess, and intervene with children in Grades K–5. Many school settings encompass Grades K–6, and where this is the case, sixth-grade students are included in the local target population.
The TASC centers were developed by the Office of Social Service Research and Development (OSSRD) School of Social Work, Louisiana State University, at the request of the Louisiana state legislature. Two pilot truancy centers were established in 1999. The success of these led to the expansion of 17 centers across the state. OSSRD is responsible for providing the technical assistance necessary for the new jurisdictions to develop plans and begin center operations and to implement both process and performance evaluations of all centers, as well as working with existing centers to incorporate evaluation findings into their programs. Data are collected and analyzed by OSSRD evaluators, and the individual sites are monitored regularly. Ongoing feedback is given to the sites by evaluation staff, and technical assistance is provided as needed.
Key features of the TASC centers include:
- Early identification of truant children and appropriate assessment.
- Rapid, coordinated, targeted service response to identified needs.
- Consistent, timely monitoring and revising of service plans.
- Attention to family environmental factors affecting the child.
- Appropriate use of the Family in Need of Services (FINS) process, including sanctions to ensure parental cooperation and behavioral change.
Among more than 12,000 referrals to the TASC centers during the 2008–2009 school year, the proportion of days missed due to unexcused absences of referred was cut in half, with a reduction from about 16 percent of days missed at referral to 8 percent of days missed after referral. In addition, 24 percent of the referred students had no unexcused absences after referral, and 71 percent had five or fewer absences after referral.
Conduct disorders (authority conflict/rebellious/stubborn/disruptive/antisocial)
Early and persistent noncompliant behavior
Early onset of aggression/violence
Lack of guilt and empathy
Low intelligence quotient
Low perceived likelihood of being caught
Mental health problems
Victim of child maltreatment
Victimization and exposure to violence
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
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
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
National Gang Center: Effective program structure
School of Social Work
Louisiana State University
311 Huey P. Long Field House
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Phone: (225) 578-5875
Office of Social Service Research and Development (2009). Planning Guide for a Community Juvenile Justice System. Baton Rouge, LA: School of Social Work, Louisiana State University.