Project Title: Reducing Gang Violence: A Randomized Trial of Functional Family Therapy (with the University of Maryland)
Funding Agency: National Institute of Justice
Affiliated Faculty: Jamie Fader and Phil Harris
Description: The research will produce knowledge about how to prevent at-risk youth from joining gangs and reduce delinquency among active gang members. It will evaluate a modification of Functional Family Therapy (FFT), a model program from the Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development initiative. This modification, FFT-G, was developed in an earlier phase of the research. A randomized trial testing this adaptation is currently underway with funding from Smith Richardson Foundation. The long-term goal is the designation of FFT-G as a national Blueprint Model Program for a new and especially high-risk population, members of street gangs, thus providing the first known evidence-based program (EBP) for such youth. In addition to scholarly articles and presentations about the project, this research will produce a program model that is ready for broad dissemination, an existing dissemination mechanism, and a model for how public agencies can fund EBPs using existing funding streams. Given recent estimates that more than 782,000 gang members reside in the U.S., this product is expected to have a large impact on community uptake of the model.
Approximately 200 adjudicated males age 11-17 who reside in inner city Philadelphia neighborhoods with high gang prevalence and are gang members or at high risk for joining a gang will be court-ordered to receive family therapy. These subjects are then randomly assigned to receive FFT-G (treatment) or another family therapy typically used by the court (control). Treatment lasts 5 to 6 months. Participating youths and their care-givers complete interviews prior to random assignment and at 6 months post-randomization, and data from court and public assistance records are obtained. Interviews assess criminal activity, involvement in gangs, and several targeted risk factors that contribute to these poor outcomes. A process evaluation documents program implementation as well as costs for both the FFT-G and control groups.