YouthZone quantifies its value to the community | PostIndependent.com

YouthZone quantifies its value to the community

Carrie Click
Post Independent Staff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – YouthZone is about a lot more than kissing a pig.

The organization’s executive director, Debbie Wilde, laughs when she talks about YouthZone’s annual swine-bussing fund-raiser. But when the subject turns to YouthZone’s work with young people and their families, Wilde is passionate about YouthZone’s place in the community.

And now, as the result of a three-year, independent evaluation, Wilde and the rest of YouthZone’s staff have statistical evidence that proves the organization’s effectiveness.

“After 20 years in this organization, it certainly pleases me to see that we are a product of quality and value to our community,” Wilde said.

YouthZone decided to conduct two evaluations so the organization would have tangible proof that its programs are really working – and the data collected backs that up.

“YouthZone is quite unique in that it’s really very progressive,” said Shelley Molz, an independent evaluator who conducted the evaluations with Jerry Evans, a clinical psychologist. “In communities across the state, youth services reach out to help young people whose emotional, social and behavioral adjustment are failing. The fraction that can demonstrate they are making a measurable difference is very small.”

The evaluation process

Molz said YouthZone surveyed a sample of 762 youths and their families between 1999 and 2002. Each youth was pre-tested prior to participating in a YouthZone program, and again after completing the program. Evaluators then compared this data with surveys they took from 1995 to 1998.

“We compared trends between the first and second surveys,” Molz said. “What we found is that the kids we surveyed most recently are dealing with a lot more stress and multiple problems than those in the first group. A combination of issues, like major problems at home, mental health concerns and problems at school, are piled on these kids.”

Even still, evaluation results showed marked improvement both in the youths surveyed and in YouthZone’s effectiveness between the two surveys. Wilde is encouraged by participants’ marked decreases in delinquent behavior, their decreased use of illegal drugs and alcohol, their increased perceptions of themselves, their increased positive decision-making, and their increased positive social skills.

Best yet, YouthZone’s success rate remained high. During the first survey, 75 percent of YouthZone’s participants avoided reoffending while an active client or following the end of their YouthZone program. During the second survey, that percentage went up slightly to 76 percent.

Wilde noted the survey also highlighted areas for improvement.

“We want to look closer at our drug and alcohol interventions,” Wilde said. “And we’d like to work with schools and educators more in helping participants become more successful in school. It’s all tied into the big picture.”

“The need exists”

Now in its 27th year, YouthZone is a private, nonprofit organization that was initially named Garfield Youth Services by a group of local parents worried about high school drug use. Since then, YouthZone has changed its name and expanded its territory to provide counseling, interactive programming and educational services to 1,500 young people and their families a year, serving 12 local communities in Garfield, Pitkin, Rio Blanco and west Eagle counties.

Wilde said four out of five young people come to YouthZone through the court and juvenile justice system. But she stressed that parents or youth are welcome at YouthZone any time. Payment for services is on a sliding scale, but no one is turned away if they cannot pay.

Most important, Wilde said, is that the community knows that YouthZone is a service that’s available to all.

“The need for YouthZone exists,” Wilde said. “And the sooner we can intervene, the better.”

For information about YouthZone and its programs, call 945-9300 or visit http://www.youthzone.com.

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

cclick@postindependent.com


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