Michigan State University Adolescent Project (MSUAP) uses a community, strength-based intervention strategy designed to decrease delinquency while helping juveniles to recognize their competencies. MSUAP uses a multi-faceted, community strength based intervention strategy (A.I.M.A.T). Assess the youth’s strength and unmet needs. Implement strategies to access resources to support and/or enhance their strengths, and fulfill their unmet needs. Monitor progress. Adjust for unforeseen challenges. Terminate the advocate involvement to allow the delinquent youth to practice self advocacy.
The components of the MSUAP intervention package which contribute to the program's success are based on five primary tenets:
1) Specific, intensive, and practically oriented training;
2) Weekly intensive supervision of intervention;
3) 6-8 hours of weekly contact with youth;
4) A multi-faceted intervention model which addresses several areas of a youth's life;
5) A strength and skills based intervention.
Intervention activities are carried out entirely by undergraduate college students who are trained and supervised. Students enroll in a two-term course sequence offered by the Department of Psychology. A new sequence is started each semester. During the first 12 weeks, students receive intensive training. Training is rigorous and consists of assigned readings, weekly quizzes and role play exercises. The aim of such a highly structured training program is to help students develop skills pertinent for working with adolescents and their families. This in-depth, practically oriented training component differentiates MSUAP from most other programs that work with juveniles. The careful monitoring of each student's progress and grasp of intervention techniques promotes the training of competent students/service providers.
The training component of the MSUAP provides students with knowledge and skills in two major intervention strategies: 1 Interpersonal Problem-Solving, using the technique of behavioral contracting and 2.Community Advocacy. The Interpersonal Problem-Solving approach is used to help improve and strengthen relationships between the youth and important people in his/her life. It is used to help the youth establish more constructive and positive relationships at home with parents and/or siblings, through the application of effective communication and negotiation skills. The community advocacy approach helps the youth identify and gain access to various community resources that she/he is interested in. Some of the more common advocacy areas are employment, education, and constructive recreational activities. In addition to learning these two intervention approaches, students are trained in skills associated with the four major stages that each case moves through. These skills include: administering a strength-based/needs assessment , implementation of the specific intervention strategies, developing monitoring charts for goals completion and troubleshooting, and termination strategies which are directed at shifting the major responsibilities for carrying out further positive changes to the youth and his/her family.
MSUAP also provides students with experiences and training that will help them prepare for graduate school. During the First Semester, students will have to research, design and present a class session that focuses on providing information about a specific adolescent problem (teenage depression, drugs, sexual assault, etc...). The class presentation consists of a power point presentation, speaking to a professional on your presentation topic, and a brochure that provides information on your class project topic. Students must complete 10 hours of community service. Student will also have the opportunity to write short thought papers in APA (American Psychological Association) format. This format is the choice of most Social Science graduate programs.
Toward the end of the formal training segment of the course sequence, students are assigned a youth and family. Classes meet weekly for three hours, during which time students report on their intervention activities over the past week, receive feedback from their fellow classmates and supervisors, and establish goals for the upcoming week's intervention activities. These supervision groups provide a forum for students to share and to learn from the experiences of each other. In addition, this format allows staff to maintain continuous, detailed information about each student's intervention activities. Further, all students are provided with supervisors' home telephone numbers and are encouraged to contact supervisors for additional advice or supervision, aside from the weekly supervision meetings, if necessary. Past research has indicated that this intensive small group supervision format is an essential factor in the success of the MSUAP.
Once assigned, the student is required to spend 6-8 hours a week, for 18 weeks, working directly with or on behalf of his/her youth. Students are instructed to apply the material and skills learned during training to their specific case. The students' role becomes that of a change agent and advocate for their youth. They work closely with the youth and his/her family in identifying goal areas as targets for intervention and assist them in accomplishing these goals. The intervention plan for each case is individually tailored to meet the needs of that youth and family. For instance, emphasis of some students' intervention activities might involve teaching the youth and his/her parents effective problem-solving and communication skills that will enable them to negotiate and solve problems in their relationships. The intervention activities of other students might focus primarily on teaching the youth how to be an effective self-advocate within her/his community so that he/she can successfully obtain desired resources through appropriate means. Typically, students use a combination of both approaches over the course of their 18-week involvement with the youth and family. The student's primary objective is not to solve specific problems for their youths, but rather to teach their youth and his/her family effective, general skills that they can use on their own once their involvement with the MSUAP has ended. A basic premise held by MSUAP is that adolescents who have skills in resolving interpersonal problems and skills in obtaining desired community resources will be less likely to engage in illegal activities. The Project's goal is to train youths in these skills so that they are equipped with effective methods of dealing with problems/situations that they inevitably will confront in the course of every day life.
Each student is required to turn in a weekly progress report. Keep an updated log of the intervention, turn in a Mid-intervention report and a Termination report. Intervention liaisons will check each case three times throughout the intervention