Evaluating a school-based social and material needs identification system to prevent youth violence involvement
This natural experiment will evaluate the effect of Pathways to Potential (P2P) on youth violence outcomes using administrative data sources and surveys of key program staff. P2P is a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services program that began in 2012 as a novel approach to human services delivery, and P2P seeks to improve school communities’ social conditions by identifying and reducing the level and concentration of risk factors for chronic absenteeism. Overall, this study will help determine if school-based social and material needs identification and resource connections equitably and immediately prevent youth violence involvement.
Social and material needs identification and resource connection systems have existed in schools for decades, but researchers have not rigorously evaluated these systems with respect to their effects on youth violence involvement. Central to the current proposal, a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) program, Pathways to Potential (P2P), began in 2012 as a novel approach to the delivery of human services. P2P is currently implemented in 288 schools throughout the state, whereby it stations MDHHS caseworkers, called success coaches, in local elementary, middle, and high schools. After identifying a social or material need that is a barrier to school attendance (e.g., transportation barriers, caregiver unemployment), success coaches connect students and families to community resources and public assistance. These identified needs not only are barriers to attendance, but also are risk factors for youth violence and child maltreatment. Given P2P addresses common risk factors for multiple types of youth violence involvement and exposures, we expect school involvement in P2P reduces the prevalence of peer violence and child maltreatment within a school.
This project will link longitudinal P2P participation data to state administrative records and school disciplinary data to evaluate associations between school P2P participation and youth violence involvement— specifically peer violence rates, firearm carriage rates, and child maltreatment rates within a school (Aim 1). Given the focus of P2P is to improve the social and structural conditions within a school that contribute to student chronic absenteeism, the team will assess if chronic absenteeism rates mediate the relationships between school P2P participation and youth violence involvement (Aim 3). Finally, a survey of success coaches will inform the examination of school and implementation factors that moderate associations between P2P participation and youth violence involvement (Aim 3). Given racial disparities in social and material needs and violence outcomes, the research team will evaluate P2P effects among (a) all schools and (b) schools with a predominately non-White and/or Hispanic student body. The team will also assess the immediacy of associations, evaluating outcomes both six-months into and at the academic year end. As a collaboration between researchers, practitioners, and government agencies, the core research team and study partners are well-positioned to conduct this research, disseminate results, and translate research findings into practice. The proposed effectiveness research will evaluate the capacity of P2P to improve the social conditions within schools that contribute to the prevalence of and inequities in youth violence involvement. Overall, this study will help determine if school-based social and material needs identification and resource connections equitably and immediately prevent youth violence.