Issue No. 15


Welcome to the Blueprints Bulletin



Leadership Letter: 

On March 11, 2020, the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. As noted in our last newsletter and in publications and experiences around the world, COVID-19 has touched all aspects of life and caused many disruptions, including the cancellation of the 2020 Blueprints Conference (which is held every other year and brings together evidence-based program professionals and advocates from around the world). While we continue to navigate the uncertainty of planning large events during these troubling times, we remain committed to identifying interventions that have the highest standards for promoting education, good behavior, emotional well-being, physical health, and positive relationships.

A debate on evidence-based approaches for guiding juvenile justice programming
 

One of the tracks planned for the 2020 Blueprints Conference was titled “successful scale-up frameworks,” in which sessions would focus on broad dissemination to ensure the impact of Blueprints-certified interventions on a large scale. Though unable to host these conversations to date, this newsletter summarizes a related debate featured in a recent issue of Criminology & Public Policy (CPP). As CPP is a peer-reviewed academic journal covering criminology and its implications for public policy, the debate focuses on evidence-based approaches for guiding juvenile justice programming and assessing the system-level effects on recidivism as reforms are implemented and evidence-based interventions are adopted.
 
Featured first is an essay led by Blueprints founder and board member, Dr. Del Elliott, in which several members of the Blueprints leadership team serve as co-authors. Titled “Evidence-based juvenile justice programs and practices: A critical review,” the full-text article can be read here: Elliott, Buckley, Gottfredson, Hawkins & Tolan (2020). The focus is on interventions rated as “model,” an evidence-level that Blueprints specifically notes is required for scale-up. The Blueprints model standard requires: 1) documentation of the intervention activities targeting risk or protective factors theoretically linked to change a behavioral youth outcome, 2) one or more high quality randomized controlled designs (RCTs), 3) an experimental replication, 4) sustainability of effects for a minimum of one year post intervention, 5) no evidence from high-quality evaluations of harmful effects, and 6) the organizational capacity to provide information for potential users to adopt and implement the intervention with fidelity. While less consensus exists regarding the definition of evidence-based practices, they typically involve generic types of strategies often informed by meta-analysis that share core components but do not involve the same detailed package of prescribed activities as with Blueprints-rated “model” interventions. Elliott and colleagues contend that we should invest more heavily in model interventions and treat generic practices as a complementary approach in need of further rigorous evaluation.
 
Dr. Mark Lipsey of Vanderbilt University authored the second essay on this debate. Titled “Effective use of the large body of research on the effectiveness of programs for juvenile offenders and the failure of the model programs approach”, the abstract is located here (Lipsey, 2020) and the full-text article can be read by paid subscribers to CPP. In his essay, Lipsey explains the development of the Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (SPEP), which he promotes as an evidence-based practice intervention. Lipsey describes SPEP as an assessment based on a meta-analysis he conducted in 2009 involving four program characteristics treated as core components in an evidence-based intervention that are predictive of favorable recidivism effects. SPEP is offered to juvenile justice systems as a set of practice guidelines for improving their programming, with the claim that increasing compliance levels across these four characteristics (i.e., their SPEP score) will increase effectiveness.
 
Both essays agree that juvenile justice interventions should be supported by credible evidence of effectiveness.
 
The third essay is written by Dr. Brandon Welsh of Northeastern University, who cites that a key criticism of evidence-based interventions (whether they are model programs or generic practices) is the limited research demonstrating their ability to achieve population impacts. In this paper, titled “The case for rigorous comparative research and population impacts in a new era of evidence-based interventions for juvenile offenders” (the abstract can be read here), Dr. Welsh notes that greater attention to both approaches is necessary in order to have lasting impacts in reducing recidivism rates. He also cites the importance of frameworks such as the Communities That Care (CTC) model, which aims to reduce delinquency and later offending by implementing particular interventions—from a menu of strategies—that have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing risk factors and enhancing protective factors. Though not mentioned in Welsh’s essay, CTC is rated as “promising” on the Blueprints registry (click here to review the Blueprints write-up of CTC).
 
We hope that you enjoy this lively debate. We also wish you safety and health during this holiday season.
 
Sincerely,


Pamela Buckley, PhD
Director and Co-Principal Investigator
Blueprints Initiative
Institute of Behavioral Science
University of Colorado Boulder
Pamela.Buckley@Colorado.edu


Karl G. Hill, PhD
Principal Investigator
Blueprints Initiative
Institute of Behavioral Science
University of Colorado Boulder
Karl.Hill@Colorado.edu

Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development is hosted by the University of Colorado Boulder, Institute of Behavioral Science, with current funding from Arnold Ventures and former funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Each intervention included in the Blueprints database has been reviewed carefully by an independent advisory panel that looked at research on the intervention’s impact, practical focus, and potential for implementation in public systems.

Blueprints Year in Review 
We accomplished a lot in 2020!
(1) We are proud to report that we reviewed 51 unique interventions, 142 individual articles or reports and certified seven interventions. Many of the articles we reviewed in 2020 came to our attention through published scientific studies that we found in comprehensive searches of the evaluation literature, databases, and journals. In addition, we searched blogs, the internet, and other registries to locate evaluation studies. We also reviewed interventions by a request from developers or evaluators (click here to nominate an intervention). (2) We expanded our social media presence from Facebook and Twitter to also include Instagram. (3) We planned two meetings for the Blueprints Advisory Board, a distinguished panel of methodological experts with a variety of content expertise (one Board meeting in 2020 was canceled due to COVID-19). (4) We launched features on our website to (a) assist with downloading and saving searches on Blueprints-certified interventions, and (b) allow users to export searches of interventions reviewed by Blueprints that did not meet our certification standards (click here). (5) We conducted an online survey in collaboration with our friends at Evidence-Based Associates on Model/Model Plus and Promising Programs’ COVID-19 response (the full survey and aggregated responses can be downloaded by clicking here). (6) We published 2 academic, peer-reviewed papers – one of which is highlighted in this newsletter (see Blueprints publications listed on our website here). And (7) we planned for the 2020 Blueprints biennial conference (cancelled due to COVID-19). 
 
In addition, members of the Blueprints advisory board accomplished a lot in 2020! (1) Dr. Karl Hill led a webinar titled “Why Use Evidence and Where to Find It: Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development” (hosted by the Northwest Prevention Technology Transfer Center). The webinar discussed the importance of employing evidence and prevention science in substance misuse prevention work. Click here to view the recorded webinar. (2) Dr. Frances Gardner collaborated with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, the Internet of Good Things, USAID and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a website with open-access online parenting resources during COVID-19. Go here to learn more. (3) Dr. Larry Hedges published a working paper with  a colleague from Northwestern University titled “Addressing the Challenges to Educational Research Posed by COVID-19,” which discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the conduct of ongoing research, especially randomized field trials. The paper seeks to identify some of the problems that may arise because of this disruption and identify possible responses to the disruption. Read the full working paper here. (4) Dr. Abigail Fagan was elected to the board of the Society for Prevention Research (SPR), an organization dedicated to conducting and translating prevention research that promotes health and well-being. She will serve a one-year term (June, 2020 through June, 2021) as President-Elect, after which she will serve a two-year term (June, 2021 through June, 2023) as President. (5) Dr. Velma McBride Murry, Dr. Patrick Tolan, and Dr. Abigail Fagan were recognized by SPR for making a significant impact in the field of prevention science. Dr. Murry and Dr. Tolan both received the “Advances in Culture and Diversity in Prevention Science Award” and Dr. Fagan received the “Service to SPR” Award. And (6) Dr. Velma Murry was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, which provides trusted scientific advice.

2020 in Review
By the numbers 

Below is a summary of our year in review.
 
Interventions Reviewed & Certified in the Past Year
 
•  Number of Unique Interventions Reviewed = 51
•  Number of Individuals Articles or Reports Reviewed = 142
•  Number of Interventions Certified = 7
 
Learning Together (Promising)
Added Jan. 9, 2020
Learn more
 
Year Up (Promising)
Added Feb.14, 2020
Learn more
 
Tools of the Mind (Promising)
Added: May 19, 2020
Learn more
 
Bounce Back (Promising)
Added: Jul. 22, 2020
Learn more
 
Pace Center for Girls (Promising)
Added: Sep. 24, 2020
Learn more
 
GenerationPMTO (Moved from Model to Model Plus)
Added: Sep. 24, 2020
Learn more
 
Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (Model Plus)
Added: Dec. 2, 2020
Learn more

Featured Model Program
Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) 

Blueprints Certified: 2020
Ages Served: Early Adulthood (19-22) – The program targets low-income community college students.
Program Outcomes: Academic Performance, Post-secondary Education 

A post-secondary college-based prevention program that aims to address potential barriers to academic success and promote credit accumulation and associate degree completion in college students through comprehensive advisement and career and tutoring services provided by dedicated advisers.

Learn more > >

Featured Promising Program
Pace Center for Girls 

Blueprints Certified: 2020
Ages Served: Early Adolescence (12-14) – Middle School; Late Adolescence (15-18) –  High School 
Program Outcomes: Academic Performance, Truancy – School Attendance 

Pace Center for Girls (Pace) encompasses a set of gender-responsive prevention and early intervention programs and services for girls with multiple risk factors for juvenile justice system involvement including academic failure, chronic truancy, and dropping out of school. 

Learn more > >

Blueprints Interventions in the News
In case you have missed them, here are a few newspaper articles and web postings that feature efforts of some of our Blueprint’s Model/Model Plus and Promising Programs in helping communities facing challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • The Nurse-Family Partnership Program (a Blueprints Model program) continues to help new mothers navigate pregnancy and parenthood amid #COVID19. NFP is a nurse home visiting program for first-time pregnant mothers designed to improve prenatal and child rearing practices through the child’s second birthday. Go here to learn more.
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) is a Blueprints Promising program that matches adult volunteer mentors with an at-risk child or adolescent to reduce antisocial behavior and improve academic success. The CEO of BBBS of East Tennessee says their mission is critical amid #COVID19; a recent news feature reported more than 100 children on their wait list. Learn more here.
  • The Education Policy Institute (EPI) says the learning gap between rich and poor students of primary school age in England has widened for the first time since 2007, suggesting #COVID19 has had a major impact on the education system. To help combat the disruption, the UK Department for Education created a “COVID-19 Catch-Up Premium,” which includes funding for the Nuffield Early Language Intervention (a Blueprints Promising program). Go here to learn more. 

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© 2019 Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development, Regents of the University of Colorado. All rights reserved. 

Our mailing address is:
University of Colorado Boulder | Institute of Behavioral Science
483 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309