Recently, I have had a number of people approach me wondering how Developing Capable People TM programs respond to the current emphasis on resiliency and youth asset development in funding criteria for Alcohol, Tobacco, Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention programs. In several instances, prevention program and/or training proposals featuring DCP have been rejected as "unresponsive".
The entire field of prevention chronically has struggled with constantly changing criteria imposed by governmental agencies and the issue of showing a cause-and-effect relationship between prevention strategies and behavioral health problems.
DCP was originally developed in direct response to the most reliable research on behavioral health issues available in the United States (see Session One in the Developing Capable People Leader's Guide and/or the first four chapters ofRaising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World). Therefore, failure to recognize it as a vital foundation of prevention programming is quite ironic. In 1977, the "Significant Seven"TM (the foundation of the DCP program) were officially adopted as criteria for prevention, intervention, treatment and research programs by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In the intervening 20-years, there has been much research validating the essential reliability of this policy recommendation.
DCP is based on extensive research demonstrating that three perceptions and four skills are essential elements of character, resiliency, behavioral health, maturity and self-sufficiency. These generic life-management assets determine how effectively people deal with life and its challenges.
As people acquire strength in each of these areas, they become
increasingly less "at risk" to a wide range of problems including
substance abuse, adolescent pregnancy & parenthood, dropping out,
underachievement, gang involvement,etc.)
At present, Youth Asset Development and Resiliency are the major targets of prevention funding sources. DCP is specifically designed to support and strengthen these outcomes.
Search Institute has been researching young people for more than forty years and has produced many useful reports. Their research contributed directly to the design of DCP because it was identified as significant in preparing the NIDA document mentioned above. In their early work, four categories of factors surfaced as having significance for behavioral health risk prediction and/or reduction: (1) strong perceptions of closeness and trust with significant adults, (2) strength of moral positions, (3) strong perceptions of a meaningful/contributing role in pro-social institutions (home, school, community, religious organizations, youth programs, etc.), and (4) healthy self-esteem.
Search Institute's most recent report serves as the basis for the Healthy Communities-Healthy Kids initiatives that are being considered nationwide. In this study, which considers responses from over 250,000 adolescents, Search has refined their analysis into two categories each containing four classifications of "developmental assets" which they find to be correlated with such behavioral health issues as alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse, sexual acting out, anti-social behavior, success in school, etc.
While the qualitative and quantitative criteria for each asset is largely subjective and the term "developmental," as defined by psychologists and/or child development professionals, is questionable when applied to some of the "assets," data suggests that the greater the number of so-called "assets" acquired by an individual, the less "at risk" they are. In other words youth who perceive themselves as having 1-10 assets are the most likely to be involved with drugs of abuse, etc. while youth who perceive themselves as having 30-40 assets are the least likely (by a wide margin) to have such involvement.
DCP directly impacts or contributes to 28 of the 40 youth assets currently being advocated by the Healthy Communities-Healthy Kids programs.
Historically, prevention programs have largely been developed for young people, rather than for the adults that influence them. Many of the above assets reflect the quality of interaction between young people and parents, teachers, adult mentors, etc.; therefore, it is difficult to consider responses that do not include significant training for adults who impact young people. The DCP training program is designed to prepare adults, who deal with young people, to positively impact 28 of the 40 assets identified by this research. Therefore DCP provides an essential foundation and a comprehensive process for youth asset development.
Resiliency has been identified as a critical factor in resistance to and recovery from a wide range of diseases and behavioral health problems. Research on resiliency has consistently identified a number of factors that influence a person's ability to thrive in the face of challenges and adversity. Among them are such external factors as family cohesiveness, community support, and access to mentors; and internal factors such as optimism, healthy self-esteem, a sense of meaning and purpose in life, self-discipline, and pro-social bonding.
With the possible exception of community support and access to mentors, DCP is specifically designed to impact most internal and external factors associated with resiliency. Impact studies have shown that DCP does, in fact, increase family cohesiveness and healthy self-esteem, promotes positive bonding, and helps strengthen personal resources in the areas of self-discipline, interpersonal skills, moral and ethical development, and purposeful living. In other words, it provides a powerful integrated process for fostering resiliency.
The DEVELOPING CAPABLE PEOPLE TM program is based on a powerful inductive training model, which emphasizes collaborative learning and encourages participants to adapt the principles to their unique relationships and situations so that they can achieve personal mastery. In addition to fulfilling most of the criteria for prevention programs in areas of behavioral health, DCP has proven to be unusually effective in accommodating ethnic and socio-cultural diversity and promoting self-sufficiency in the social-welfare system. Virtually any program or activity that seeks to promote health, wellness, growth and/or self-sufficiency in people will find essential foundation elements in DCP .