Breaking the Cycle

Breaking the Cycle focuses on interrupting the cycle of violence by providing support and recovery for abused children and those who have witnessed violence. It addresses the generational cycle of family violence. Children are growing up in a culture that promotes and accepts violent behavior. They are bombarded with violent images daily. This constant exposure to violence underscores the prevalent social message that violence is an acceptable way to resolve relationship problems. Children that grow up witnessing or experiencing violence in their families are often not taught how to counteract the powerful culture of violence messages. These children become at risk for perpetuating the violence in their relationships during and after school, at home and at play. They bully, assault schoolmates and attack dates. Breaking the Cycle helps children develop and use nonviolent coping skills in their relationships with schoolmates, friends, dating partners and family members. The focus is 6-8th grade students ages 11-14 who are receiving no violence prevention education. These students are just beginning to explore personal relationships and develop habits that they will continue to use in more mature relationships. Students must be reached prior to high school. This project is based on the Building Healthy Relationships curriculum developed by Avalon Center. The innovative school-based intervention system enables at risk students to participate in educational support groups at school. The key is support from their peers and a trained facilitator and education through group dynamic activities to help the students overcome traumatic experiences resulting from exposure to violence. The structured intervention helps youth heal from abuse, build self-esteem, reduce quilt, and learn positive non-violent problem solving skills. Avalon Center developed the curriculum, works with partners to identify at risk youth, delivers the intervention, and provides follow up and evaluation.

About You

read more↑ hide↑ hide

Location

Project Street Address

Project City

Project Province/State

Project Postal/Zip Code

Project Country

n/a

Your idea

read more↑ hide↑ hide

Focus of activity

Education

Year the initiative began

2005

Position your initiative on the mosaic of solutions

Which of these barriers is the primary focus of your work?

Culture Of Acceptance

Which of the insights is the primary focus of your work?

Create Paths to Prevention or Remediation

If you believe some other barrier or insight should be included in the mosaic, please describe it and how it would affect the positioning of your initiative in the mosaic

Another barrier is the constant exposure to violence; another insight is breaking the cycle through juvenile delinquency prevention. Youth are exposed to violence at home, in school, in the media and in society in general. Over 3.3 million children are exposed to violence at home annually; school violence is the second-leading cause of expulsion; the American Academy of Pediatrics states that by age 18 the average youth will view an estimated 200,000 acts of violence on TV; a 1995 survey of youth between 12-17 revealed that 1.8 million have experienced serious sexual assault, 3.9 million endured serious physical assault, and 9 million witnessed serious violence ("Safe From the Start," OJJDP Summary Nov. 2000). At risk youth need education so they can avoid the cycle of violence

Name Your Project

Breaking the Cycle

Describe Your Idea

Breaking the Cycle focuses on interrupting the cycle of violence by providing support and recovery for abused children and those who have witnessed violence. It addresses the generational cycle of family violence. Children are growing up in a culture that promotes and accepts violent behavior. They are bombarded with violent images daily. This constant exposure to violence underscores the prevalent social message that violence is an acceptable way to resolve relationship problems. Children that grow up witnessing or experiencing violence in their families are often not taught how to counteract the powerful culture of violence messages. These children become at risk for perpetuating the violence in their relationships during and after school, at home and at play. They bully, assault schoolmates and attack dates. Breaking the Cycle helps children develop and use nonviolent coping skills in their relationships with schoolmates, friends, dating partners and family members. The focus is 6-8th grade students ages 11-14 who are receiving no violence prevention education. These students are just beginning to explore personal relationships and develop habits that they will continue to use in more mature relationships. Students must be reached prior to high school. This project is based on the Building Healthy Relationships curriculum developed by Avalon Center. The innovative school-based intervention system enables at risk students to participate in educational support groups at school. The key is support from their peers and a trained facilitator and education through group dynamic activities to help the students overcome traumatic experiences resulting from exposure to violence. The structured intervention helps youth heal from abuse, build self-esteem, reduce quilt, and learn positive non-violent problem solving skills. Avalon Center developed the curriculum, works with partners to identify at risk youth, delivers the intervention, and provides follow up and evaluation.

Innovation

read more↑ hide↑ hide

Description of Initiative

Breaking the Cycle focuses on interrupting the cycle of violence by providing support and recovery for abused children and those who have witnessed violence. It addresses the generational cycle of family violence. Children are growing up in a culture that promotes and accepts violent behavior. They are bombarded with violent images daily. This constant exposure to violence underscores the prevalent social message that violence is an acceptable way to resolve relationship problems. Children that grow up witnessing or experiencing violence in their families are often not taught how to counteract the powerful culture of violence messages. These children become at risk for perpetuating the violence in their relationships during and after school, at home and at play. They bully, assault schoolmates and attack dates. Breaking the Cycle helps children develop and use nonviolent coping skills in their relationships with schoolmates, friends, dating partners and family members. The focus is 6-8th grade students ages 11-14 who are receiving no violence prevention education. These students are just beginning to explore personal relationships and develop habits that they will continue to use in more mature relationships. Students must be reached prior to high school. This project is based on the Building Healthy Relationships curriculum developed by Avalon Center. The innovative school-based intervention system enables at risk students to participate in educational support groups at school. The key is support from their peers and a trained facilitator and education through group dynamic activities to help the students overcome traumatic experiences resulting from exposure to violence. The structured intervention helps youth heal from abuse, build self-esteem, reduce quilt, and learn positive non-violent problem solving skills. Avalon Center developed the curriculum, works with partners to identify at risk youth, delivers the intervention, and provides follow up and evaluation.

Innovation

Avalon Center (AC) serves a 5-county rural primarily indigent area. AC is the only program in the 5-county area that focuses on the dynamics specific to domestic violence and sexual assault. AC began as Battered Women Inc in 1984. A name change was made in 2002 to reflect the comprehensive scope of services for adults and children. Direct services for children as young as age 2 began in 1996. Since then AC has developed original curricula and "in house' programs unique to the needs of children. AC intervenes with children at risk of developing emotional or behavioral problems because they have been physically or sexually abused; have witnessed abuse; and those doping with a divorce or disruption of home life due to violence. Most child prevention programs are aimed at the general student population. The Breaking the Cycle project differs by providing direct intervention for at risk youth at an early age. Being school based enables greater participation and support from teachers and peers. Targeting at risk youth is a key step in equipping youth with tools to avoid violence and abuse in the home as well as in outside settings. Stemming the tide of delinquent behavior also reduces the chance that the bullying student will become an abusive parent or spouse. In 97% of violent relationships, the victim is female and the abuser is male. Therefore, Breaking the Cycle helps both females and males understand appropriate dating relationships so that acceptance of violent abusive images seen in the media and experienced in the home as normal is discouraged. Breaking the Cycle also differs in its delivery which includes a comprehensive system of educational, governmental, criminal justice, medical and mental health, social, clergy and community based partners.

Delivery Model

Avalon Center diligently works to identify individuals, agencies, and institutions (including faith-based organizations) to become active partners in the comprehensive delivery system. This system of educational, governmental, criminal justice, medical and mental health, social, clergy and community based organizations works to identify and reach at risk youth. Each member of the delivery system uses age specific and appropriate information tools to publicize Avalon Center programs and services. Radio stations and newspapers in the 5-county service area publicize AC programs as well as the 1-800 crisis help line. Community education and violence prevention presentations are provided in work places and to civic organizations. These presentations also help to identify and reach the target population. The principal means of reaching youth is through the educational system. AC provides three distinct programs for children: These Hands Are Not for Hurting (K-5th grades); Building Healthy Relationships (6-8th grades); Reaching and Teaching Teens to Stop Violence (9th grade). The Breaking the Cycle project builds upon the general population programs provided for K- 8th grades by providing additional support and direct intervention for at risk youth so they can heal from abuse, build self-esteem, reduce guilt, and learn positive non-violent problem solving skills. The intake assessment protocol tracks the means by which the participant or care giver heard about the children's programs. This enables staff to measure the impact of the communication system.

Key Operational Partnerships

The juvenile court system, the Department of Child Services, youth services officers, the Foster Care Review Board, the Child and Family Interagency Council, Youth Violence Prevention Forum, Holland J. Stephens Center for Prevention of Child Abuse, the educational system particularly school guidance counselors all partner to make Breaking the Cycle feasible, efficient and effective. The project is a direct collaborative partnership with entities sharing roles which identify, communicate with and deliver services to youth. The members of the comprehensive delivery system identify and refer youth to school guidance counselors, to youth services officers or to Avalon Center staff directly. Avalon Center staff train school staff who help facilitate the support groups; Avalon Center staff oversees and implements the curriculum and all structured group activities. Members of the business community provide financial support.

Impact

read more↑ hide↑ hide

Financial Model

The only program income is derived from the Abuse Intervention for Men (AIM) program for adult male abusers (over age 19) who are court ordered or enroll themselves in AIM. All other services are free. The programs and services are supported by government and foundation grants; individual donations and corporate sponsorships. In April 2006, Avalon Center opened a re-sale shop called Second Chance. It is located in a regional retail outlet center. The proceeds from sales are held in a reserve account to ensure future funding for programs in the event Avalon Center experiences a short fall in grants or contributions.

What percentage, if any, of the total operating costs does earned income (from products, services, or other fees) represent?

<1%

How is the initiative financed? Is it financially self-sustainable or profitable? How much do beneficiaries contribute?

The initiative is financed in part by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, Family Violence Act, Victims of Crime Act, corporate sponsorships, annual fund raisers, and individual donations. The beneficiaries received services free of charge.

Effectiveness

The Breaking the Cycle initiative based on the Building Healthy Relationships curriculum has serviced eight groups (40) youth who met for six sessions per year during 2005 and 2006. The children's programs including These Hands Are Not for Hurting; Building Healthy Relationships; and Reaching and Teaching Teens to Stop Violence have serviced an average of 3,000 students per year. The educational system and the juvenile justice system have been most directly affected by the Breaking the Cycle initiative. Policies for handling disruptive youth have changed dramatically based on the community education provided by Avalon Center. Youth service officers, guidance counselors, teachers, school administrators as well as family members are increasingly more sensitive to the root causes of behavioral problems and are seeking help from Avalon Center.

How many people have benefited from your program over the last year? Which element of the program proved itself most effective?

Annual Report for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2006:
Direct Services: Domestic Violence 1287 adults; 88 children TOTAL: 1375
Violence & Sexual Assault 135 adults; 29 children TOTAL 164
Sexual Assault 75 adults; 9 children TOTAL 84
Non victims receiving services: 155
Abuse Intervention for Men 53 served
DIRECT SERVICES TOTAL PERSONS SERVED: 1831

Community Education Services
Community Awareness 383
Youth Violence Prevention Programs 3030
Community Events and Activities 528
Agency Special Events 200
Professional Training Programs 35
TOTAL COMMUNITY EDUCATION SERVICES ATTENDANCE: 4, 176

AGENCY GRAND TOTAL SERVED: 6,007
The youth violence prevention programs have proved most effective. 95% of abused children that participated in intensive support services improved their overall well being; 100% of 6-8th grade at risk girls participating in Building Healthy Relationships demonstrated an increased ability to identify and avoid unhealthy behaviors in relationships; 79% of children in K-5 grades demonstrated an increased understanding of violence and alternatives to violence

Scaling up Strategy

Currently, the Breaking the Cycle initiative is only offered in one of the five counties served by Avalon Center. Although the other four counties are smaller demographically and geographically, each of the other four is more rural and isolated. Statistics indicate that more victims of domestic violence suffer in silence when they live in more rural and isolated areas. Cumberland County which is the only county served currently by this initiative and Bledsoe County have higher school expulsion rates due to violence at school than the Tennessee statewide rate. Other data support the need to scale up the initiative and make it available in Bledsoe, Morgan, Rhea and Van Buren counties.

Stage of the Initiative

1

Origin of the Initiative

The most important factor in developing the Breaking the Cycle initiative was a pilot group offered through the guidance department of Homestead Elementary School in Cumberland County. Eight girls ranging in age from 12-15 participated in a Relationship Group facilitated by Jody Roberts of Avalon Center and Melissa Miller, the guidance counselor. It was a resounding success. The girls attended six weekly sessions and covered a variety of topics geared toward healthy relationship skills. As a result, other teachers and professionals noticed improved behaviors in the participants. Exits surveys completed by the participants indicated the need to intervene with other at risk youth - males and females - and at an earlier age. Jody Roberts was named 2004 Child Advocate of the Year for the 14-County Upper Cumberland Region and she was named 2005 Child Advocate of the Year for the State of TN

This Entry is about (Issues)

Sustainability

read more↑ hide↑ hide

How did you hear about this contest and what is your main incentive to participate?

Avalon Center received funding alerts from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The primary incentive for this submission is to share the importance of breaking the cycle of generational family violence by using an intervention model which targets at risk youth at an early age.

Main Obstacles to Scaling Up

Primarily the financial and personnel limitations placed on the key operational partners: the school system and the juvenile court system.

Main Financial Challenges

Domestic violence and sexual assault are multi-faceted social challenges which require the direct intervention of a myriad of agencies to even begin to ameliorate the problems adults and children face. The permissive acceptance of the constant bombardment of violence as normal exasperates the challenge of reducing and preventing family violence. Providing direct intervention and using social and legal strategies to pressure change is part of the solution. But the primary solution is to education and equip children so they can learn to avoid the trap of societal acceptance of violent behavior. Avalon Center envisions owning and operating an administrative center and a comprehensive youth center from which services and programs can be delivered. The current youth counseling center is housed in a late 19th century two-story bulding that is cramped and inefficient. The administrative office does not provide sufficient private space for intake and emergency counseling. Neither facility is handicapped accessible. Non governmental funding in the amount of $500,000 for capital expenses over 3 years and a $50,000 program budget per year are needed.

Main Partnership Challenges

The main challenge is the difficult partners have in prioritizing their partner's needs when their own agencies have projects and programs which must be implemented.