• Blueprints for Healthy
    Youth Development

    We Know What Works

Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development is a research project within the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, at the University of Colorado Boulder. The Blueprints mission is to identify evidence-based prevention and intervention programs that are effective in reducing antisocial behavior and promoting a healthy course of youth development. This website provides information on the Blueprints project (such as background and a dissemination project related to the model program LifeSkills Training).

Please see our new website, www.blueprintsprograms.com, where you will find all of our specific program information, including fact sheets and interactive search tools that will allow you to find a program to match your needs.

Blueprints Programs

Demand for programs that promote healthy youth development continues to grow. Across the country, a raft of programs that claim to prevent problem behaviors is underway. All of these programs are well-intentioned. Yet very few of them have evidence demonstrating their effectiveness. Many are implemented with little consistency or quality control. Unproven programs not only waste scarce resources but also can do harm. Blueprints promote only those programs with strong scientific evidence of effectiveness.

How do we know what works?

Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development, a project of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado, provide answers to that question. The Blueprints mission is to identify and disseminate evidence-based prevention and intervention programs that are effective in reducing antisocial behavior and promoting a healthy course of youth development. In doing so, Blueprints serves as a resource for governments, foundations, businesses, and other organizations trying to make informed judgments about their investments in youth programs.

Blueprints staff systematically and continuously review the research on youth programs to determine which are exemplary and grounded in evidence. Blueprints' standards for certifying model and promising prevention programs are widely recognized as the most rigorous in use. Program effectiveness is based upon an initial review by Blueprints staff and a final review and recommendation from a distinguished advisory board, comprised of experts in the field of youth development. This independent panel of evaluation experts certifies programs as meeting rigorous requirements for evaluation and effectiveness. Users can have confidence in the ability of the certified programs to change targeted behavior and developmental outcomes.

Why do we need to know what works?

First, many programs, despite their good intentions, are either ineffective or actually do more harm than good. Second, ineffective or harmful programs are a waste of scarce violence prevention dollars.

For example, Scared Straight, which is supposed to deter delinquent youth from a life of crime by showing them life in prison, actually increases crime. Yet shock probation programs like Scared Straight continue to be used throughout the country. Ineffective prevention programs include boot camps, gun buybacks, peer counseling, summer jobs for at-risk youth, neighborhood watches, and home detention with electronic monitoring.

But other prevention programs, like LifeSkills Training and Project Towards No Drug Abuse, not only work but are highly cost-effective. They are among the model programs certified by Blueprints, meaning that they have a high level of evidence supporting their effectiveness and can confidently be replicated in other communities to prevent violence and drug abuse. In addition, Blueprints has identified many promising programs that have shown good results but require either replication in another community or additional time to demonstrate sustainability.

What is the key factor in implementing evidence-based programs?

Blueprints advocate for faithful replication of proven prevention programs - otherwise known as implementation fidelity. When communities "tweak" a program to suit their own preferences or circumstances, they wind up with a different program whose effectiveness is unknown. Evidence-based programs have produced better outcomes when implemented with fidelity. Fidelity can be achieved when implementation supports are put into place (see Fixsen et al., 2005, Implementation Research: A Synthesis of the Literature). Find monograph at: nirn.fpg.unc.edu

Background of Blueprints Project.