A Critical Look at the D.A.R.E. Program and Effective Youth Programs
by Paige Freiheit, Shannon Montague, and Lindsey Wiggington
Poverty & Prejudice: Gang Intervention and Rehabilitation

"Youth Outreach Programs"

Today adolescents and teens across the country are reaping the benefits of outreach programs. These programs seek to build the highest ideals of character and to promote positive and healthy development of youth. However, several of our nationally funded programs absorb a great deal of our time and money without achieving results. D.A.R.E. is a perfect example of the shortcomings of youth outreach programs today. The Boys and Girls Club on the other hand is less expensive yet more effective. Thus, I propose that the millions of dollars that is used to fund the D.A.R.E. program should be used to extend the services of the Boys and Girls Club.

The D.A.R.E. program, also known as Drug Awareness Resistance Education, was founded in 1983. Today the program is offered to thirty-five million school children worldwide. The D.A.R.E. program is a police officer led series of classroom lessons that teaches children from kindergarten through twelfth grade how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug and violence free lives. The D.A.R.E. program claims to provide knowledge and skills to resist peer pressure and experimentation with drugs, to enhance self-assertion, develop risk assessment and decision-making skills, to teach anger management, conflict resolution and resist gang involvement.

The D.A.R.E. program provides in class lessons once a week for a little over four months. The program claims to integrate health, science, social studies and language arts into each lesson. Thus, the child's education is supposedly uninterrupted. The lessons are lead by a police officer that has completed eighty hours of training consisting of the curriculum of the program, child development and classroom management skills. The officers are encouraged to demonstrate positive alternatives to harmful situations.

The D.A.R.E. mission appeals to the parents and teachers of students, because the results it alleges to achieve are ideal. Above all else parents generally seek to ensure the health and happiness of their children. Hence, if the D.A.R.E. program were to prove effective to its participant's good health would be ensured. Unfortunately, according to the Justice Department the D.A.R.E. program has a 'limited to essentially nonexistent effect on drug abuse." In fact, the nation’s dominant drug abuse agency, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, doesn't even refer to the D.A.R.E. program.

In 1998, a study was conducted in the state of Wisconsin, to measure the success of the D.A.R.E. program. It clearly portrayed the achievements of D.A.R.E.; there was an increase in appreciation for law enforcement authority. It was suggested as a good compliment to stress management, conflict resolution, decision making and empathy awareness, (lessons already existing in the majority of the nations educational curriculums), and there was an increase in community confidence that u5~~~~hing was being done." Hence, not one of the goals of the D.A.R.E. program was achieved. This and other studies held in previous years are proof that what was actually achieved by the program was a mere compliment to the lessons and ideals taught in more successful and well rounded youth outreach program.

The Boys and Girls Club on the other hand is one of the many stellar youth outreach programs. Founded in 1906, it has helped children from all walks of life develop the qualities to become responsible citizens and leaders in their communities. The Boys and Girls Club provides a safe haven free from negative influences, it teaches discipline, awareness of job opportunities, offers tutoring, goal setting, violence prevention, and a future vision of life beyond public housing. Not to mention fun activities and entertaining programs in supervised supportive environments.

The Boys and Girls Club is open five to six days a week, four to five hours a day. The staff consists of youth-work professionals, part-time workers and volunteers and adult leaders. The staff is required to encourage and help retain a positive relationship between club members and adults. Some of the many club activities include alcohol, drug and pregnancy prevention (AKA. SMART Moves and SMART kids), career exploration (AKA. Broader Horizons, Job Search Club, One With One, and Goals for Growth), citizenship and leadership (AKA. Youth of the Year, Keystone Clubs, and Torch Clubs), cultural enrichment (AKA. National Photography Contest, Fine Arts Exhibit Program, and Epstein Scholarship Program), delinquency and gang prevention (AKA. Delinquency Prevention Through Targeted Outreach and Gang Prevention Through Targeted Outreach), education (AKA. Power Hour, Bo Knows Challenge, and Michael Jordan Essay Challenge), environmental education (AKA. The Ultimate Journey) and health sports and fitness (AKA. The Body Works, Jump Rope Challenge, Sir Thomas J. Lipton Sportsmanship Award, and Sectional Tournaments).

Besides the numerous activities available to Boys and Girls Club members, studies have shown effectiveness of both drug and crime prevention among youth. In 1987, they launched an initiative to establish new clubs in public housing areas nationwide, where children have higher risks of making unhealthy choices involving violence, crime and drugs. After conducting a three-year study at Columbia University, it was confirmed that the Boys and Girls Club had a huge impact. Juvenile crime was reduced by thirteen percent, crack cocaine presence by twenty-five percent and overall drug activity by twenty-two percent.

One of the biggest differences between the D.A.R.E. program and the Boys and Girls Club is the opportunity to do something productive during after school hours. The Boys and Girls Club removes kids from the streets and puts them in a safe environment. Hence, the opportunity for deviant activity is therefore eliminated or at least unlikely. Instead of "hanging out", deciding whether or not to experiment with drugs Of even watching television kids can get help with their homework or even play soccer with their peers and role models.

The most effective way to acknowledge the success of an after school vs. in school program is by viewing them in Practice vs. Preach frame. For instance, the D.A.R.E. program teaches self worth, however self worth is gained by facing challenges and mastering them through hard work and precision. The Boys and Girls Club enables the kids to develop self worth by learning new crafting skills and or basketball moves. Another example is teaching the importance of following the rules. The D.A.R.E. program simply implies that it is necessary in order to avoid the consequences. The Boys and Girls Club has rules that are both posted and given before activities and if a member breaks the rules they are unable to participate in club activities.

Personally, throughout my adolescents I was well aware of the availability of drugs and alcohol. In fact, many of my friends who weren't involved in extra curricular activities or who did not belong to clubs experimented with and often times fell victim to their consequences. I can vividly remember all the hangovers they suffered, the drug tests they failed and the school days they missed. Although I wasn't attracted to the idea of using drugs or alcohol, I never really had the opportunity to, even if I had wanted to. My weekdays were spent running from the schoolyard, to the gym and then off to the swimming pool. Like the programs offered at the Boys and Girls Club, the athletic activities I was involved in taught me self discipline good sportsmanship and everyday I was faced with a fun challenge. Basically I was healthy, happy and safe.

When I was in grade school I had the opportunity to participate in Just Say No to Drugs. Just Say No to Drugs was similar to D.A.R.E. in that it taught me drug prevention and awareness skills. However, the school teachers and parent volunteers were in charge of running the program. I also took a course called Me-ology, which is geared toward building self-esteem and moral judgement. Together, these two programs, which are offered in grade schools across the country, are perfect substitutions for the D.A.R.E. education.

The D.A.R.E. program roughly spends around 700 million dollars a year. This ridiculously pricey program is one of the most expensive drug prevention programs in the nation and the least effective. If the money that is used to fund the D.A.R.E. program was given to the Boys and Girls Club, millions of disadvantaged and at risk children could benefit. The Boys and Girls Club could use the money to extend its hours and open new clubs in public housing areas.

Works Cited

"From the White House- 1999 National Drug Control Strategy." White House Drug Policy.

Online. 19 May 1999.

Gist, E. Nancy. "Boys & Girls (B&G) Clubs of America." Oct. 1995. Bureau of Justice Assistance Fact Sheet. Online. 25 Apr.1999.

Richards, G. Pamela. "D.A.R.E. Core Curriculum." Research on DARE. Online. 20 May 1999

"Section Six: a Different Look at d.a.r.e." DRCNet Special Reports. Online. 19May1999.



More Effective Youth Programs Than D.A.R.E.

Paige Freiheit

Ethics of Development in a global Environment

June 4, 1999

Every year, millions of dollars are being spent to help steer youth on a path free of drugs, crime, and filled with opportunities to better their lives in the future. One such program is the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.). The D.A.R.E. program in public schools is our nation's most prominent and visible attempt to educate young people to resist drug abuse. It reaches over 60% of elementary school children in the United States, and is far and away the most prevalent drug education program in use today.

Yet D.A.R.E. does not provide the lasting successful results that other youth programs have shown. What follows are the problems with D.A.R.E., and how best to use the resources on other youth programs, such as the YMCAs, that have proven to make a difference in young people's lives.

Despite its huge popularity, and hundreds of millions in tax revenue and private contributions, no evidence exists that D.A.R.E. keeps kids off drugs. The main problem is that D.A.R.E. costs a lot of money. Glenn Levant, the D.A.R.E. executive director, states that D.A.R.E. consumes some $750,000,000 per year. 2 Most of the money spent on the DARE program is spent by localities to train and pay DARE officers, and to purchase workbooks, curriculum materials.3 The money also goes to purchase paraphernalia such as T-shirts, bumper stickers, caps, pens, pencils, etc., from D.A.R.E. - licensed vendors, as well as for training and overtime salaries for police. "It is important to realize that every dollar spent on D.A.R.E. is a dollar not available for a useful, educationally sound drug education program in schools. The overwhelming preponderance of federal "Drug-Free Schools" money goes into the D.A.R.E. program.

News reports have estimated that from $700 to $750 million are spent on D.A.R.E. each year, based on Dennis Cauchon's USA Today interviews with D.A.R.E. America director Glenn Levant. But the IRS returns filed by DARE America in 1993 and 1994 showed estimates of only $200 to $230 million per year, most of it in volunteer time and effort rather than money.5 A mere $5.5 million was actually spent by DARE America itself in 1994, up from less than $1 .1 million in 1992. 6 Since there is no centralized accounting of all local DARE fluids, there is really no way to know exactly what is spent on D.A.R.E. nationwide.7 But we do know that it is still growing fast.

The bulk of D.A.R.E. America income now comes from private contributions from its board members and some large corporations, such as Kimberly-Clark paper products and Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. 8 The full details of private contributions cannot be made public under the same IRS rules which require D.A.R.E.'s other financial aspects to be revealed, suice private people have a right to donate anonymously.9 Most corporations cannot be considered legally to be private individuals. Michael Milken and Diane Disney Miller are probably two of several high profile donors, and are known to serve on the D.A.R.E. America Board and with its sister organization, D.A.R.E. California10. Local D.A.R.E. programs are fluided in part by Safe and Drug Free School Act money set aside by Congress for anti-drug education.11 Other funds set up by Congress have since required that a certain percentage of money be spent on anti-violence programs. D.A.R.E. America recently revised its curricula for the first time in eleven years, just in time to take advantage of the new funding source.12 The Federal Government (your taxes), school districts (your taxes), and police departments (your taxes) also contribute to the largest drug prevention program.

D.A.R.E. also sacrifices excessive academic time.14 The program consumes approximately seventeen hours of academic time that would otherwise be available for science, math, reading or some other academic subject.'5 In the absence of any proof that D.A.R.E. works, this is a substantial sacrifice of valuable school time.

With the amount of money and time used inefficiently, other programs could benefit from this money and use it more effectively. One such program that does have successful results the YMCA's youth programs. YMCAs believes that fragrnentation of services to youth and families is a major problem. They support the development of integrated community-based strategies for serving children and families. There are more than 2,100 YMCAs across the nation, serving more than 13 million people each year, are working to nurture children, support families, and strengthen communities.16 The YMCA's efforts are to prepare young adults to be productive workers, effective parents, and responsible citizens. The YMCA is committed to developing educational and recreational programs which advocate integrity, understanding of diversity, strong character and positive change in the youth and families of our community. 17

The YMCAs give highest priority to prevention. The YMCA believes that providing programs that help children and families succeed is more cost-effective than remedial strategies that offer help only after children and families are in ~ They support state and local initiatives to strengthened community collaboration. YMCAs support the development of integrated community-based strategies for serving children and families. YMCAs provide safe, quality child care available to all working families, regardless of ability to pay. 19

The YMCAs are very family and community focused and research shows that this where support should come from to make positive results in young people's lives. Most parents (94%) believe that their children learn values from them while 20% of teens report that they do not.20 Parents also underestimate the role that their children's friends play in determining their values--only 9% think that friends play an important role here--yet nearly one in six 14- and i5-year~lds (14%) considers friends a source of values, up from 5% for 12- and 13-year~lds.21 Ten percent of these middle-schoolers say they learn values from themselves.22 "In the history of our country, our children have never been so neglected, so at risk, so deprived of family interaction, positive values and character development," warned David R. Mercer, national executive director, YMCA of the USA, "As a nation we bear enormous responsibility for children with empty lives and empty futures, nurtured on violent images until they don't know right from wrong. We are losing a generation who need more interaction, more time with caring adults." 23

The YMCAs' survey shows that only 2% of 12-to 15-year~lds spend the majority of their free time interacting with family.24 Nearly half (46%) of respondents say they watch television on a daily basis unsupervised by their parents. 25 Also alarmingly, only 63% of parents say they supervise television use daily26. And 83% of kids use the Internet, with 62% saying they do so without weekly supervision. 27Children say they can talk to parents about several subjects--but not about emotions and depression. "We have the knowledge, the ability and the programs to change all of this," Mercer continued, "We must now find the national will to make our children's future a priority. Every adult has a stake in this."28

Money from D.A.R.E. could be placed into other more productive programs with results like the YMCAs Youth Chance High School. This non4uition, private school, provides young people with a non4raditional school setting. 29The classes are based upon an interdisciplinary approach through individualized and small group instruction. It emphasizes teaching the "whole" student than just academic learning. ~ The curriculum at Youth Chance emphasizes GED and California High School Proficiency Exam preparation. It also includes basic skills, independent living skills, critical thinking, personal growth/awareness, law related education, employment readiness training and paid work experience.31 Goals of the school include and are not limited to: passing the GED, increasing reading and math skills, re-entering the public school system, and acquiring/maintaining permanent employment.32 One must be at least 16 years old and must attend classes regularly.

After-School Tutorial Program is another highly successful program. It is free to elementary students and offers recreational activities after school, and one-on-one tutoring by trained volunteers.33 One success story of this program is from the San Francisco branch. Children from this area had some of the lowest test scores in all of California. But after the tutoring program had been established for a year, test scores of these students are now in the 50"' percentile. 34

Friday nights are a time when many kids can get into trouble. Friday Night Jams is a program that allows kids to use the entire YMCA facility for $2.00 during, and still hang out with their friends.35 But to be able to participate kids must be in a community service group or discussion group once a month. 36 Friday Youth Night is another evening group that helps keep kids out of trouble. It is for 6-9"' graders from all areas of San Francisco and incorporates recreational and social activities with discussions about relevant issues. Rides home are also provided.

Hoops is a winter and spring basketball league program designed for middle and high school boys and girls. Monthly classes focusing on education and prevention are also run with participation of this program.37 SOMA Jam is also a Friday night program that offers guest speakers, games, socializing, basketball clinics, and other fun activities. It is designed to give youth and teens a safe place to play basketball, and provide motivation for being successful teens.39

Teen Drop-In Center is another outlet for kids to stay out of trouble while their parents are still at work. 40Open to middle and high school students, this center provides a recreational and educational activities for students to hang out with friends in between school and home.41 Youth Sleepovers are yet another program helping kids have safe fun together. Activities for this program include: swimming, playing games, and discussing relevant issues42 Sleepovers are supervised by trained YMCA staff and include breakfast.43

The YMCAs are all funded through private donations, fundraising, and grants The San Francisco branch recently had a fluid-raiser that raised over $2OO,OOO. 44 All of their programs offer financial aid to their already lowered membership fees if there are any.45 Money is also received from the full price memberships the public buys to their fitness center, to help cover costs of their community youth programs.46 But more money, money like D.A.R.E. programs receive, is needed to help kept these programs running and create more to benefit more youth who need it.

I believe that the YMCAs mission to involve the family and community is a very successful and important one. Family and community are the foundation for so many things in life to be based on and without this base, a lot of young people are suffering for it. My experiences when I was growing up, was very family-oriented My parents both did not work during the summers and my brother and I had a strong constant family network. Now many families do not have this option, but time spent after work reading to us and having family dinners were also done during the school year, that can be done by all. The community can take over this role if the family is not supportive enough That is where program such as the YMCAs can become so helpful Although D.A.R.E. has good objectives in mind programs like the YMCAs begin at the foundation of the causes of youth problems to be a more successful program.

  1. Gonnerman, Jennifer, "Truth or D.A.R.E. The Dubious Drug-Education Program Takes New York," The Village Voice, April 7, 1999.
  2. Gorman, D.M., '~ho Needs Evidence? From The Irrelevance of Evidence in the Development of School-Based Drug Prevention Policy 1986-1996," Evalution Review', vol 22, (l),Feb. 1998pp.118- 146.
  3. Ibid
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Gonnerman, Jennifer, The Vi11age Voice, April 7. 1999.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Johnson Dirk, New York Time, June 1999.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Embarcadero YMCA Homepage
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Mt Diablo Region YMCA Homepage
  21. Ibid.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Ibid.
  24. Ibid.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Ibid.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Ibid.
  29. Youth Chance High School pamphlet
  30. Ibid.
  31. Ibid.
  32. Ibid.
  33. Program Guide Embarcadero YMCA
  34. Ibid.
  35. Ibid.
  36. Ibid.
  37. Ibid.
  38. Ibid.
  39. Ibid.
  40. Ibid.
  41. Ibid.
  42. Ibid.
  43. Ibid.
  44. Ernbarcadero YMCA Homepage
  45. Ibid.
  46. Ibid.



Gonnerman, Jennifer, "Truth or D.A.R.E. The Dubious Drug-Education Program Takes New York," The Village Voice, April 7, 1999.

Gorman, D.M., "Who Needs Evidence? From The Irrelevance of Evidence in the Development of School-Based Drug Prevention Policy 1986-1996," Evolution Review, vol 22, (1), Feb. 1998pp.118-146.

Johnson, Dirk, "Second Thoughts On Cops In The Class,." New York Times, June 1996.

Program Guide, Embarcadero YMCA of San Francisco, May-August 1999, pp. 8-9

Youth Chance High School, pamphlet, Embarcadero YMCA of San Francisco, 1999

http://www.mtdiabloregionymca.org/ysfacts/policy.html Mt. Diablo Region YMCA Homepage, May 1999.

http://www.embarcaderoymca.org/communityprograms.html Embarcadero YMCA of San Francisco Homepage, May 1999.



Shannon Montague


June 4, 1999

Our generation faces the terrifying obstacle of reducing and solving the current high levels of violence and drug use among teenagers today. Every year new programs are created to help keep kids of the streets, help them say no to drugs, and help them value their education. It is our responsibility to determine which of these programs are successful and which of the programs are wasting money. The federal government funds a number of youth programs. Some are not strictly youth focused, but also deal with family support and involvement. These programs are found in almost every federal department, and they vary in size, scope, and funding mechanism. Programs are subject to yearly change based on Congressional and administration decisions. Unfortunately, every year money is dumped into programs which have been found to have no influence on teenager behavior, and for this reason, I propose those programs be eliminated and put the money towards more successful programs. Primarily, the national D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program should be eliminated, and instead the money should go to programs which focus on family support programs and family literacy.

Contrary to public belief the D.A.R.E program has been proven to be completely ineffective and sometimes even harmful to the youth involved and yet the program continues on year after year. Over 200 million dollars a year goes towards the D.A.R.E. program . D.A.R.E. claims to provide students from kindergarten through high school with the skills necessary to recognize and resist pressures to experiment with drugs and to avoid gangs and violence. Lessons emphasize self-esteem, decision making, interpersonal communications skills, the consequences of drug abuse, conflict resolution and positive alternatives to substance abuse. 2 D.A.R.E sponsors believe that the most important facet of the program are the specially trained police officers used to deliver the curriculum within the schools. Adults believe that the presence of police officers influences the teenagers to say no to drugs, because they are seen as authority figures. In reality, the officers are seen as entertainment and a way to get out of class. Students no more pay attention to the officers than they do to the principal lecturing on bad behavior, and the students that do listen are not the ones that need the help. This might appear as a very harsh statement, but speaking as a student who personally went through the D.A.R.E. program, I found it to be dull and non-influential on me and my classmates. On the days that the officers came, I would sit quietly and enjoy the stories they told and the small games we played, but when it was all said and done, the words flew in one ear and out the other without me thinking twice. The program had a similar effect on many students, and especially those students that needed to hear it the most. The only way to reach these teenagers is to make it a way of life for them. For this reason, I propose that the money from D.A.R.E. be used to strengthen the family support programs across the nation.

Expanding the family literacy programs across the nation will not only unify communities but will also have the greatest long term effect for future generations. All family support programs are based on four primary assumptions. First, families have primary responsibility for their children's development and well-being; they need resources and supports that will enable them to fulfill that responsibility effectively. Second, healthy families are the foundation of a healthy society. Families who are unable to promote their children's development ultimately place the entire society at risk. Third, families operate as part of a total system. Children cannot be viewed as separate from their families, nor can families be viewed separately from their communities, their cultural heritage or the society at large. Decisions made on behalf of children must consider the ways in which these various systems are interconnected. Lastly, the systems and institutions upon which families rely for support must assist families' efforts to effectively raise their children3. They must adjust and coordinate their services so as not to hinder families' abilities to maintain positive environments for their children. Family support programs began to appear in the early 1 970s, and since then have been proliferating across the country. Family programs are the future of our country.

With the focus on strong families, this will then strengthen neighborhoods, and then cities, and finally the whole country will benefit. The goal is to have no weak links, and to let every citizens realize their potential. Perhaps this is seeming a bit idealized, but most of the public is naive to the fact that more than 23 million adults in the United States are functionally illiterate. They cannot read, write, or perform basic math problems well enough to function effectively in everyday life. An additional 45 million are marginally illiterate, with skills at or below the ninth grade level.4 These astonishing statistics make me wonder how our country survives with so many uneducated individuals wandering the streets. For many people, their circumstances made it impossible for better opportunities, and it is our responsibility to give these families the opportunity to learn and succeed. Family literacy programs deal in four specific areas. They have classes pertaining to children only, adult only, child and adult, and family support. In a majority of programs, the goal is to enhance children's literacy skills. Activities include early childhood programs, day care, kindergarten programs, reading and storytelling events, and music and art activities. On the other end, goals for adults aged 16 and above include developing literacy and parenting skills, and improving self-esteem. Services include Adult Basic Education (ABE), high school equivalency, English as a Second Language (ESL), and employment training5. Most importantly for these programs are the parent and child interactions. Activities include side-by-side reading, modeling of child development practices, reading aloud, storytelling, educational field trips, and computer games. The family support component targets the family's utilization of community resources, the development of social networks, the development of parenting skills, and the economic self-sufficiency of the family. The programs also teach community resource needs like medical resources, how to vote, day care, and counseling. These programs are important, because they target several aspects of daily life; and the lessons participants learn are extremely practical and helpful.

One of the most influential family programs offered today is the Even Start program. This program is still very small, but it has been shown to have extraordinary results. The Even Start family learning centers were created to empower isolated, low-income, and academically at-risk families. The program focuses on assisting parents in becoming teachers to their children, help children prepare and succeed in school programs, and increase literacy skills for the whole family6. Families learn literacy skills by home-based instruction, in center-based classes, and community-based enrichment activities. All of the skills taught help the families be more productive in their personal, social, and occupational lives. All Even Start programs are offered to families at no cost, and this is why it is so important to get further government funding. In addition to no costs for the families, most lessons are presented bilingually in English and Spanish. Approximately 50 percent of the families are Hispanic, many of whom speak no English.7 Generally speaking, the participant families are usually at low education achievement levels, have limited resources, low self-esteem, and low literacy levels.

Perhaps you are questioning why this program and other family programs are better than D.A.R.E. and other youth programs. In a current research study on both adult education and early childhood intervention programs, it showed that the mother's level of education is one of the most important factors influencing children's reading levels and other school achievements. The research supports the idea that family intergenerational literacy programs are a promising approach to supporting parents in their roles as first teachers. Families are the core of every stable society. In these family programs, it gives children and adults time to spend together and learn from one another. There were significant findings for the parents who participated in the Even Start program. Over 80 percent of the parents who enrolled in the program were unemployed, had not completed high school, and had an income of less than $7,000 per year, primarily from public assistance.8 After participating in the program, 41 percent either were in some form of higher or continuing education program or had definite plans for enrolling; 35 percent were employed; 41 percent were not receiving any form of public assistance; and well over half of the parents were still serving as volunteers in their children's elementary schools one to three years after leaving the program.9 Not only were the parents extremely influenced by the programs, but also the children involved. The children were more likely to take pride and responsibility for their literacy abilities if their parents showed concern for education. Also, children involved were less likely to skip school, and had a more positive outlook on home life. Overall, the major benefit of the Even Start program is giving children and adults the attention they need to learn basic survival skills like reading and writing. Once this obstacle was overcome by most families, they were then able to look for better jobs which allowed them to stay home longer and gave them more time to be with their children.

My strong appeal for family learning and strengthening comes from the way in which my parents raised me and my eight brothers and sisters. What appeared to be an impossible task for most small American families, my parents managed to raise nine extremely talented children that have never had a drug problem or education issues. Why did we all succeed? From my childhood experiences and from observing other classmates, the primary difference was the children who received family support. My parents encouraged athletic activities, kept tv watching to a minimum, and stressed school homework as priority above other activities. It was not just the values that they helped us set, but also the examples they were to us and the constant love and support they gave. My parents made it impossible for me to even consider the possibility of doing drugs or failing a class. They had raised me from the beginning with enough emphasis on the value of reading and learning that any other way of life seemed wrong to me.

Unfortunately, the time that my parents had available for us was far more than most parents have who are struggling to survive when working 12 hour days. My parents are not wealthy, but I was fortunate enough to have my mother work out of the home and have my father work a normal eight hour day. For some of my classmates, either their parents had to work long hours to support them or they didn't take much concern for their children, but it was these children that ended up doing drugs and dropping out of school. It just proves that parental involvement with their children is more important than any school lesson or adult influence in their life. This is why family programs must be stressed in our country. The parent's involvement in their child's life is essential to putting them on the right path. I propose that low income families that do not have the time because of work reasons have the programs available to them with work compensation from the government. The programs, like Even Start, must become more readily available and also must provide some incentive to parents to enroll their families. Once the federal government concerns themselves with these successful family programs, then cities and individual neighborhoods will focus their attention on strengthening the family.

The benefits from family literacy programs go far beyond the family. Once the family is strengthened, then the community improves its quality of living, and then it can become a national epidemic. If our country can manage to teach 23 million people how to read, then the benefits would be too extensive to measure. This is why it is imperative that unsuccessful programs, like D.A.R.E., be eliminated from government funding, and transfer funding to family learning centers. Of course, family learning programs are not the only helpful programs out there, and that is why youth programs like YMCA and Boys and Girls clubs are made available. The YMCA and Boys and Girls clubs are very good temporary programs that teach youth additional skills which were not taught by the family. But I still must insist that the only way to fully improve the quality of life in our country is to strengthen all poverty stricken families to work as a unit and to be examples for each other. As I said before, when the family bonds grow, the community will benefit; and when the community strengthens, then the entire country has the capacity to reach beyond its poor streets into a new and better way of life for everyone.

  1. http://turnpike.net/~jnr/TRUTHORD.HTM
  2. http://www.dare-oh.org/
  3. http://ericps.crc.uiuc.edu/respar/texts/home/liter797.html
  4. http://ericps.crc.uiuc.edu/resparltexts/homelliter797.html
  5. http://ericps.crc.uiuc.edulrespar/texts/home/liter797.html
  6. http://cgcs.org/services/whatworks/parent/p4.htm
  7. http://ericps.crc.uiuc.edu/npin/respar/texts/home/liter797.html
  8. http://inet.ed.gov/pubs/OR/ResearchRpts/parlit.html
  9. http://inet.ed.gov/pubs/OR/ResearchRpts/parlit.html



D.A.R.E. 1999. D.A.R.E. <http://www.dare-oh.org/>.

Even Start. 1999. Council of the Great City Schools.


Family Support Programs and Family Literacy. 1999. Family Resource Coalition.

17 May 1999 <:http://ericps.crc.uiuc.edu/npin/respar/texts/home/liter797.html>.

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