Alternative Suspension (AS)
Age group: Adolescence (12-17)
Gender: Mixed (male and female)
Population served: No specific targeted population
Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: 2
Continuum of intervention: Secondary crime prevention
Alternative Suspension (AS) is a program aimed at providing tailored interventions and support to youth who have been suspended from school or who are at-risk of being suspended; AS is designed to address their misconduct and help them persevere with their school work. AS provides activities to youth in order to help them resolve conflicts and minimize negative behaviours (including aggressive, impulsive, disruptive and antisocial behaviours) that lead to suspensions. AS workshops are delivered in group settings to address a wide range of issues associated with at-risk behaviours. Individual sessions are also offered to focus on participants’ particular needs.
The program is centered on conflict resolution; leadership and youth development; skills training; academic support; truancy prevention; and substance prevention/treatment.
The main goals of the AS program are to:
- Develop and improve participants’ social skills and self-worth;
- Help youth minimize the behaviours that lead to suspensions; and
- Help youth change their attitudes toward school and turn their suspension into a positive experience.
The appropriate clientele for the AS program are youth between the ages of 12 and 17 who are registered in school and are experiencing difficulties in their academic and social life on a recurrent or occasional basis. Other risk factors targeted by the program include association with delinquent peers and low academic results/attachment.
Participants are referred by school staff or administrators. To participate in the program, youth must be currently suspended from school or at-risk of being suspended in the future.
The AS program consists of:
- School work: In the mornings, youth engage in school work and other educational activities;
- Group workshops: In the afternoons, youth participate in a variety of workshops designed to address a number of issues associated with at-risk behaviours;
- Individualized sessions: In the afternoons, youth also participate in one-on-one sessions with a youth worker so that their individual needs and/or risk factors can be addressed; and
- Complementary activities: Youth may also be given the opportunity to engage in a number of complementary activities, including recreational activities and referrals to other programs/services.
Some of the critical elements for the implementation of this program or initiative include the following:
- Organizational requirements: The lead organization must have a strong and stable management team in order to ensure that youth workers are available to conduct various workshops and one-on-one sessions with youth in the AS program.
- Partnerships: The success of the AS program depends on its partnership with schools and school administrators who are responsible for referring and enrolling students in the AS program.
- Training and technical assistance: Program facilitators and staff must be trained as youth workers before being able to administer activities associated with the AS program.
- Risk assessment tools: Limited information on this topic.
- Materials & resources: The AS program has an implementation guide which outlines the necessary materials and resources needed for its implementation, including referral documents, program checklists and participant questionnaires.
The most recognized classification systems of evidence-based crime prevention programs have classified this program or initiative as follows:
- Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development: Not applicable.
- Crime Solutions/OJJDP Model Program Guide: Not applicable.
- SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices: Not applicable.
- Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy: Not applicable.
Gathering Canadian Knowledge
Canadian Implementation Sites
The YMCAs of Quebec were supported by Public Safety Canada’s National Crime Prevention Strategy to implement the first pilot of the AS program (2002-2005). During this period, the program was delivered in six service sites on Montreal Island.
From 2009 to 2014, the YMCAs of Quebec were supported by Public Safety Canada’s National Crime Prevention Strategy to implement a national trial of AS in multiple locations: Abbotsford and Chilliwack (British Columbia); Edmonton, West and North Edmonton (Alberta); Moose Jaw and Regina (Saskatchewan); Winnipeg (Manitoba); Moncton and Riverview (New Brunswick); Halifax (Nova Scotia); and Corner Brook (Newfoundland).
Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies
As part of Public Safety Canada’s funding, C.A.C. International conducted an outcome evaluation studyFootnote1 of the first pilot of AS in Montreal from 2003 to 2005. Data were collected through repeat interviews with the same people, focus groups, surveys and analysis of the documentation generated by the program.
Results from this evaluation showed the following:
- The program has brought about changes in attitude and behaviour in the short term in at least 85% of youth referred, and medium-term effects for half of these youth. Nearly 60% of young people with minor problems experienced changes over the medium and long term, compared to 22% for young people with more serious problems; and
- The evaluation was unable to determine a decrease in suspensions in the participating schools: in fact, the number of suspensions in one school seems to vary from year to year depending on the school climate, approach to the suspension practiced and characteristics of each youth cohort. Any school-based intervention, during the planning phase, should take into considerations environmental characteristics (school, community).
For more information, refer to C.A.C. International’s (2005) publication.
As part of Public Safety Canada’s funding, a multisite outcome evaluation studyFootnote2 of AS is currently in progress with the following implementation sites: Chilliwack (British Columbia), Moncton (New Brunswick) and West Edmonton (Alberta). Malatest Program Evaluation & Market Research was contracted to conduct this evaluation. The outcome evaluation began in 2011 and ended in 2015. The evaluation is based on a quasi-experimental methodology that uses a pre-post non-equivalent groups design, including two follow-ups after completion of the intervention (6 months and 12 months). A mixed-method approach has also been used, integrating quantitative and qualitative data collected through multiple sources of data.
Findings suggest that:
- Behaviours and attitudes of program participants are influenced by what is learned in the AS workshops and interventions. Key indicators are: positive change in student attitudes; improved skills in problem areas; and positive change in student behaviour.
For more information, refer to the National Crime Prevention Centre’s (2013) publication.
The average cost per youth involved in the AS program is approximately $2,829.75 to $6,466.52 (CAD). This estimate is based on data collected in 2009/2010, 2010/2011, and 2011/2012 (National Crime Prevention Centre, 2013).
C.A.C International. (2005). Rapport final d’évaluation du programme Alternative Suspension. Report submitted to Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (Unpublished report).
National Crime Prevention Centre. (2013). Results from the Alternative Suspension (AS) Program. Ottawa, ON: Public Safety Canada. Available from: http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/rslts-ltrntv-sspnsn-prgrm/index-eng.aspx
For more information on this program, contact:
YMCA Alternative Suspension and School Retention Programs
5550 du Parc Avenue
Montreal, Quebec H2V 4H1
Telephone: (514) 271-3437, ext. 4290
Record Entry Date - 2018-02-20
A process evaluation study of the program was also conducted through Public Safety Canada’s funding. For more information, communicate with the Research Division, Public Safety Canada.
For more information about the process evaluation study, communicate with the Research Division, Public Safety Canada.
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