From Streets to Schools to foster Homes, Programs Win Results for Youth

Ayesha Rook
January 1, 1999

A lot of people think “innovative government program” is an oxymoron. But when it comes to dealing with youth, many government programs are indeed innovative — and every year the Ford Foundation gives them a pat on the back and a fat check.

With Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government judging nominees, Ford recently handed out its Innovations in Government Award to 10 program winners and 25 finalists. Winners received $100,000 and finalists $25,000 to expand and replicate their programs.

“We wanted to find concrete ways to remind people that government is often capable of solving some of the most difficult social problems and is an enormous resource for society,” says Michael Lipsky, the Ford Foundation program officer who oversees funding for the awards.

The awards have allowed some local programs to go national, such as the Parents as Teachers (PAT) program from St. Louis, Mo. PAT trains parents of newborns to begin teaching their children basic skills during the crucial zero-to-three years in order to help them to be prepared for school.

According to Trudy Schafer, the Kennedy School of Government’s assistant director for external relations, the award led to PAT’s replication in 47 states and in Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada. There are now more than 1,000 PAT programs worldwide.

Since the Awards’ inception in 1986, the Ford Foundation has made grants totaling $13.3 million to 115 winners and 90 finalists. More than 85 percent of the programs have been replicated.

This year Ford received more than 1,400 applications. Below are the 10 winners, followed by profiles of four of them:

-The BCMS Project Access, Buncombe County, N.C.

-Best Manufacturing Practices, U.S. Department of Defense, Washington, D.C.

-Center for Court Innovation, State of New York.

-Northern New Mexico Collaborative Stewardship, U.S. Department of Agriculture, N.M.

-Fast Track Product Recall System, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C.

-Reparative Probation, State of Vermont.

-Edwin Gould Academy, Chestnut Ridge, N.Y.

-First Offender Prostitution Program, San Francisco, Calif.

-Puente Project, Hayward, Calif.

-Smart Start, State of North Carolina.

North Carolina: Smart Start

In the late 1980s, North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt (D) became a grandfather. This might not have been big news to most folks at the time, but it set him to thinking about how prepared the state’s children were (or weren’t) when they arrived at the school door. Hunt created a task force of education experts, social workers and policy makers to help him create a program geared toward insuring that all children born in the state would be prepared for school.

After his re-election in 1992, Hunt created Smart Start, which now encompasses every North Carolina county. Most of its $13 million annual budget comes from the state, with some money raised from local businesses. Through the non-profit North Carolina Partnership for Children, Smart Start funds local non-profit and government programs and initiatives.

Each county now works out what programs are most in need of state money and what services need to be created from scratch. In a large county like Forsyth, which includes wealthy Chapel Hill and poorer rural areas, Smart Start is assisting programs like Catholic Charities’ Hand to Hand for teen parents.

“Hand to Hand matches teen mothers and pregnant teens with mentors. The goal is to eliminate further pregnancies, stay in school and make sure their babies are immunized,” says Marilyn Odom, a program coordinator with the Forsyth Early Childhood Partnership, which administers Hand to Hand. Surveys taken by Catholic Charities have shown dramatic improvement.

“Over 90 percent of those girls don’t have repeat pregnancies and 100 percent had immunized their babies,” Odom says.

New York: Edwin Gould Academy

“Foster care.” In the press, these two words are rarely followed by “success story.” But the Edwin Gould Academy, a school and residential foster care facility for emotionally disturbed youths in upstate New York, is leading the way to common sense reforms by keeping the best interests of its youths front and center.

Until the Academy merged its residential facilities and its school district in 1990, they had separate staff, management and even van pools. But a review of the separate budgets left the Edwin Gould Foundation board of directors wondering if the two entities couldn’t save money and provide more coordinated services for the youths if they merged.

“Before, the school district would close the facilities — library, computers, even the gym — at three o’clock because they felt the child care workers wouldn’t keep it clean,” says Academy Director/ Superintendent Thomas Webber. They decided to merge the two all the way to the top, giving the residential facility executive director the job of public school district superintendent as well.

With the idea to provide youth-centered programming at both the school and residential facility came the philosophy of “positive peer culture.” Teachers and staff are now trained to foster the climate that “all kids have the ability to be great, and to demand that the youths take care of each other,” Webber said.

“When all the kids say it’s not cool to have your pants hanging off your butt, they won’t do it,” he says. “If they have adults say it, they run to do it.” So the Academy fosters positive peer pressure as much as possible.
These innovations seem to be showing some effects. Although the number of female youths has remained constant at 50 a year, the number of teen pregnancies has gone from 20 the year before the changes to zero in 1997 and one in 1998.

San Francisco: First Offender Prostitution Program

The history of the First Offender Prostitution Program (FOPP) in San Francisco sounds like a Hollywood movie pitch. Norma Hotaling, prostitute and drug addict since she was a youth, was beaten and left for dead, recovers and decides to dedicate her life to get girls off the street and off drugs. She teams up with Lt. Joe Dutto, the officer who had arrested her over 30 times, to create an alternative sentencing program for johns that will fund projects that prevent girls from going into prostitution and to help those in to get out. In 1995, they started FOPP.

Dubbed by many the “traffic school for johns,” FOPP is intended to teach men the truth about the oldest profession.

“I do a segment about pimping and recruiting young girls and get the guys [offenders] saying, ‘Get those evil pimps.’ We always remind them of their [the pimps’] savageness, and the reason the girls are there is because of the johns,” says Hotaling.

According to Dutto and Hotaling, nearly all of the johns come to FOPP believing that prostitutes want to be with them, even without the money. “I tell them, ‘You give me $20 and I’d be anyone you want me to be,’” Hotaling says.

Men cited for misdemeanors of solicitation or other petty crimes associated with it are given citations and required to attend the FOPP program or go to court. Either way, they must pay a $500 fine for their first offense.

Men who chose FOPP avoid the embarrassment of going to court, and their fine is then earmarked for prostitution prevention and rehabilitation programs. Much of the fine money provides youth guidance to help girls in the juvenile detention center, who are at risk of sexual exploitation, break the cycle of abuse that often leads them to choose prostitution. Hotaling’s research shows that more than 70 percent of adult prostitutes were sexually or physically abused as children.

According to Dutto, in the three years that FOPP has funded the program, more than 100 girls and women have gotten off the street and the San Francisco police have “caught a lot of sexual predators.”

“If you go downtown, near Union Square used to have over 100 [prostitutes] near the hotels. Now [it’s] zero. It’s a much better place for everyone.”

More 2,000 men have completed FOPP and only five have been caught reoffending in San Francisco. The program has been replicated in Phoenix, Seattle, Buffalo, Nashville, Niagara Falls and Las Vegas.

Hayward: Puente Project

When Proposition 209 ended affirmative action at public institutions across California, many looked into the future and saw the state’s diverse public campuses morphing into white- and Asian-only student bodies. But they also saw that there were already more Latino and Mexican-American students than any other group in California’s public high schools and few were going to four-year colleges. If a bridge to college wasn’t built, many would be left out of the very higher education they need to thrive in our information economy.

But two educators had already seen the problem and taken action. English teacher Patricia McGrath and youth worker Felix Galaviv analyzed student transcripts (culled by the unscientific “Hispanic-looking names” method) to discover why so many Latinos drop out of community college. In 1981, they started the Puente Project at Chabot College in Hayward, Calif., to reverse the high dropout rate of Latino and Mexican-American students and to encourage them to transfer to four-year colleges.

Their research had found youths were giving up on English-as-a-Second-Language classes because “they didn’t know how the college system worked,” according to Puente Project spokeswoman Joan Rouleau.

So McGrath and Galaviv designed a program to address these problems. They refocused Puente Project English classes on the “cultural context of the students” by having them write from their own experiences and read mostly Latin-American and Mexican-American writings, according to Rouleau.
Puente counselors have similar cultural backgrounds as the students. They make sure students understand what credits are, how to transfer to a four-year college and untangle the web of financial aid information that trips up so many.

“A lot of these students are the first in their family to go to college,” says Rouleau. “They had no role models as college students.”

That’s why the program also matches students with successful members of the Latino and Mexican-American communities for mentoring.
Before Puente started, only 7 percent of Latino and Mexican-American community college students transferred to four-year colleges. As of last year, 48 percent of those in Puente successfully transferred, according to research by the University of California.

Now up and running in 38 community colleges and 18 high schools, the goal has expanded to increase the number of minorities in four-year colleges overall. Although Puente students are overwhelmingly Latino and Mexican-American, about 15 percent of the program’s community college students are now other minorities. Puente is open to all low-income students. To date, over 9,000 students have been served.


Edwin Gould Academy

Ramapo Union Free School District

675 Chestnut Ridge Rd.

Chestnut Ridge, NY 10977

(914) 573 -5920

First Offender Prostitution Program

Office of the District Attorney

850 Bryant St., 3rd Fl.

San Francisco, CA 94103

(415) 553 -1866

The Puente Project

Office of the President

University of California

300 Lakeside Dr., 17th Fl.

Oakland, CA 94612

(510) 987 - 9551

Smart Start

State Department of Health and Human Services

Adams Bldg.

101 Blair Dr.

P.O. Box 29526

Raleigh, NC 29526

(919) 733 - 4534

Rook, Ayesha. "From Streets to Schools to foster Homes, Programs Win Results for Youth." Youth Today, Dec/Jan 1999, p. 48.

©2000 Youth Today. Reprinted with permission from Youth Today. All rights reserved.