Changing the Odds Preventing and Reducing School Failure, Youth Violence and Other Serious Problems Down the Road

Researchers have known for some time now that it's rarely one childhood risk or one adverse life experience that leads to school failure or aggressive and violent behavior. Rather, it's usually the presence of several risks and adversities, in combination. And when these risks and adverse life experiences exist in combination, "beating the odds" will be very difficult for a number of children, youth and families. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "It's cruel to ask a man with no boots to pick himself up by his own bootstraps." The very good news though, is that researchers, clinicians and educators have been able to identify programs and practices that may be able to effectively neutralize exposure to specific childhood risks and adversities.

What if we combined these programs and practices into one setting, bundling them together, for example, at one school and in one neighborhood? Would we then be a step closer to addressing the multiple childhood risks and adversities that so often underlie chronic school failure, violent behavior and other life adjustment problems?

During this presentation we briefly review common childhood risks and adversities that, in combination, place children and youth at serious risk for chronic school failure and aggressive and violent behavior. We then present empirically validated programs and practices that are yielding hopeful outcomes for several of these specific, individual childhood risks. Finally, we review a process of combining these programs and practices into one setting, and discuss how this process may ultimately begin to "change the odds" for children and youth who are at the greatest risk for chronic school failure, violent behavior and serious life adjustment problems down the road.