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ACE Prevention Strategies

In the FOA for the 2010–2015 ACEs, Centers were asked to implement a comprehensive prevention strategy that included multiple components. The ACEs must implement components directed at risk factors from each of the following levels of influence: individual (e.g., delinquency, substance abuse, lack of social skills); relationship (e.g., inadequate parental monitoring, supervision, discipline; peer norms supporting violence); and community (e.g., social disorganization, lack of cohesion, lack of economic or supervised recreational activities for youth). The components of the multifaceted approach are to be complementary and have the reach and dosage necessary to have a community-wide effect on reducing youth violence.
The multifaceted approach is also expected to include components directed at all youth regardless of level of risk.

The figure below provides information about the prevention strategies being implemented by each ACE. To learn more about a particular program, please click on the program name:

Prevention Model

Program Descriptions

Community Based:

  1. Clean and Green/Adopt-A-Lot (University of Michigan): This initiative began in 2003 by the Genesee County Land Bank. The Clean and Green project is a community beautifying program in which people or organizations clean vacant pieces of land from their neighborhoods. As a result, these restored lots increase both community morale and property values, and decrease overall crime within the neighborhoods. In addition to the Clean and Green project, Adopt-a-Lot is another Land Bank initiative that allows neighbors to care for nearby properties by mowing the grass, picking up trash, etc. Some neighbors have gone so far as to plant flowers and start and maintain gardens.
  2. Youth Empowerment Solutions (YES; University of Michigan): The YES program is an interdisciplinary community change project developed by the Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center academic-community partnership. Empowerment theory, positive youth development, and ecological theory guide the project development, evaluation, and plans for sustaining the work after the funding period ends. The goals of the project are to provide youth with opportunities for meaningful involvement in preventing youth violence and creating community change, enhance neighborhood organizations’ ability to engage youth in their activities, and change the social and physical environment to reduce and prevent violence (especially youth violence). The project includes three components: 1) youth empowerment activities; 2) neighborhood organization development; and 3) community development projects that involve youth and organizations working together. Youth empowerment activities include workshops for program planning, budgeting, implementation, and evaluation; opportunities to engage peers in community change efforts; developing ethnic identity and pride; and to work with adults to achieve these goals.
  3. Community Policing (University of Michigan): Community policing is a philosophy of policing based on the principles of improving the relationships between the police and the public, systematic problem solving, and decentralization of police services. Improving the relationships between the police and the community is intended to strengthen collective efficacy within neighborhoods and thereby increase both informal and formal social control. An important attribute of community policing is that it is a paradigm, not a strategy. It will look very different from one community to the next.
  4. CeaseFire (University of Chicago): CeaseFire is an initiative that works with community-based organizations to develop and implement strategies to reduce and prevent shootings and killings. CeaseFire relies on outreach workers, faith leaders, and other community leaders to intervene in conflicts, or potential conflicts, and promote alternatives to violence. CeaseFire also calls for the strengthening of communities so they have the capacity to exercise informal social controls and respond to issues that affect them. There are five core components of CeaseFire: 1) community mobilization; 2) youth outreach; 3) public education; 4) faith-based leader involvement; and 5) criminal justice participation. Youth outreach and high-risk conflict mediation are, together, the most vital aspects of CeaseFire. The outreach workers and violence interrupters are streetwise individuals who are familiar with gang life in the communities where CeaseFire is active. Many of them are former gang members and many have spent time in prison, but they are now “on this side of the line” and eager to give back and help young people in their neighborhoods. These individuals use their experience and knowledge of the streets to seek out and build relationships with troubled youths who are susceptible to the violent norms that still exist on the streets.
  5. Walker Talkers (Virginia Commonwealth University): Walker-Talkers (community outreach workers) were a key component of Plain Talk, an intervention developed in collaboration with the Annie E. Casey Foundation to promote adolescent sexual health by disseminating prevention messages, skills, and resources to communities. The moniker of ‘Walkers & Talkers’ sprang forth from resident volunteers who carried the Plain Talk message into the community, or “walked their talk” as they went door-to-door providing prevention-related information. The Walker-Talkers conduct community conversations to reach community residents to educate and communicate information regarding positive opportunities for youth and ways to reduce youth risk.

School Based

  1. CeaseFire universal (University of Chicago): The universal, school-based CeaseFire program extends the work of the community-based program by working with teachers, school staff, and students to prevent violence on school grounds and in the community. The purpose of using this program in schools is to affect school norms regarding aggression and violence by mobilizing schools and students.
  2. Normative Feedback (University of Chicago): This intervention places an emphasis on acknowledging the discrepancies between what you do, what you think your friends do, and what your friends really say they do. This approach usually requires information on the current beliefs or attitudes about a certain behavior or set of behaviors in order to devise a social marketing campaign to debunk negative beliefs or attitudes.
  3. Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP; Virginia Commonwealth University): OBPP is a comprehensive, school-wide program designed and evaluated for use in elementary, middle, or junior high schools. The program’s goals are to reduce and prevent bullying problems among school children and to improve peer relations at school. OBPP has been implemented in more than a dozen countries around the world, and in thousands of schools in the United States.
  4. Second Step (Virginia Commonwealth University): Second Step is a classroom-based social skills curriculum for students from preschool through middle school. The curriculum aims to reduce impulsive and aggressive behaviors and increase protective factors and social-emotional competence. The program teaches children empathy, problem-solving skills, risk assessment, decision-making, and goal-setting skills. The Second Step lessons are organized into three skill-building units that focus on empathy, impulse control and problem solving, and anger management. Lessons are sequential, developmentally appropriate, and provide opportunities for modeling, practice, and skills reinforcement. The curriculum includes discussion, teacher modeling, coaching skills, and role-plays. Stories are used to demonstrate important peer-relations skills and to teach affective (emotional), cognitive, and behavioral social skills. Lessons can be incorporated into health, science, math, social studies, and language arts.
  5. Life Skills Training (LST; Virginia Commonwealth University): LST is a school-based program that aims to prevent alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use and violence by targeting the major social and psychological factors that promote the initiation of substance use and other risky behaviors. LST is based on both the social influence and competence enhancement models of prevention. Consistent with this theoretical framework, LST addresses multiple risk and protective factors and teaches personal and social skills that build resilience and help youth navigate developmental tasks, including the skills necessary to understand and resist pro-drug influences. LST is designed to provide information relevant to the important life transitions that adolescents and young teens face, using culturally sensitive and developmentally and age-appropriate language and content. Facilitated discussion, structured small group activities, and role-playing scenarios are used to stimulate participation and promote the acquisition of skills.
  6. Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill): SAVE is a student-driven organization that teaches youth about alternatives to violence and practice what they learn through school and community service projects. As they participate in SAVE activities, students learn crime prevention and conflict management skills and the virtues of good citizenship, civility, and nonviolence.
  7. Positive Action (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill): This program is an integrated and comprehensive program that is designed to improve academic achievement; school attendance; and problem behaviors such as substance use, violence, suspensions, disruptive behaviors, dropping out, and sexual behavior. It is also designed to improve parent-child bonding, family cohesion, and family conflict. Positive Action has materials for schools, homes, and community agencies. All materials are based on the same unifying broad concept (one feels good about oneself when taking positive actions) with six explanatory sub-concepts (positive actions for the physical, intellectual, social, and emotional areas) that elaborate on the overall theme.


  1. Fathers & Sons (F&S; University of Michigan): F&S is a unique program for African American fathers and their 8-12 year old sons who are not living in the same home. It aims to strengthen the bonds between fathers and sons and promote positive health behaviors. The F&S curriculum provides opportunities for participants to engage in mutually beneficial activities to enhance their relationships, obtain information about parent/child responsibilities and expectations, practice relevant skills, address barriers to achieving goals, and share experiences with others facing similar challenges. The intervention has three consistent themes: effective communication; cultural awareness; and skill building.
  2. Schools and Families Educating (SAFE) Children (University of Chicago): SAFE Children is a program that emphasizes helping families manage child development in risky environments. It is based on the “developmental-ecological model,” which focuses on how characteristics of neighborhoods and schools affect children and family and determine how well a child does in school and later in life. The program aims to help with the transition to elementary school, make that first year successful, and set a firm base for the future. Families with children entering first grade and living in inner-city, high-crime neighborhoods are enrolled in a 22-week family program that emphasizes developing support networks among parents, parenting skills, and understanding schools and related child development issues. In addition, children are provided tutoring in reading to ensure mastery of basic reading skills in the first year of school.
  3. Family Check Up- (FCU; Virginia Commonwealth University): FCU is a home-based intervention designed for parents with children at-risk for future problem behaviors, and is administered by parent consultants who are trained for 2.5 to 3 months prior to intervention delivery. The intervention is comprised of three sessions, which include an initial meeting and assessment, a get to know you meeting with a parent consultant, and final meeting session to deliver feedback. During the initial meeting, families participate in a 2.5 hour home visiting session where they are video-taped engaging in variety of tasks, including free play, a clean-up task, followed-up by a gratification-delaying task, three teaching tasks, a second clean-up task, the presentation of two toys that induce inhibition, and a meal preparation task. Parents are rated on parental involvement and supervision, and also asked to complete a series of questionnaires assessing depression, child inhibition, and child behavior problems. The second sessioninvolves a “get to know you” meeting with a parent consultant, where the consultant asks parents about their concerns and family issues related to child well-being. The third meeting involves a feedback session, where the parent consultant discusses their observations and ratings with the parents. During this final meeting parents are also offered a maximum of six follow-up sessions.
  4. Staying Connected with Your Teen (Virginia Commonwealth University): This program is a family-based program geared at preventing substance use, delinquency, and early-onset engagement in sexual activity in adolescents. The program includes parenting, youth, and family components and is designed to teach parents how to engage children in family processes and relationships. The curriculum involves lessons about how parents can relate to their teens, identifying risk factors, protecting teens from harmful situations, supervision, and family problem-solving, involvement, and policies. The program can be group- or self-administered. The group administered version is comprised of seven, two-hour sessions that meet on a weekly basis. The program requires families to meet together and view curriculum-based videos. Parents and teens then separate into different groups to practice specific skills. The last portion of the each session involves families and youth coming together to practice structured family interaction tasks.
  5. Parenting Wisely (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill): This is a set of interactive, computer-based training programs for parents of children ages 3-18 years. Based on social learning, cognitive/behavioral, and family systems theories, the programs aim to increase parental communication and disciplinary skills. The original Parenting Wisely program, American Teens, is designed for parents whose preteens and teens are at risk for or are exhibiting behavior problems such as substance abuse, delinquency, and school dropout. Parents use this self-instructional program on an agency's personal computer or laptop, either on site or at home, using the CD-ROM or online format. During each of nine sessions, users view a video enactment of a typical family struggle and then choose from a list of solutions representing different levels of effectiveness, each of which is portrayed and critiqued through interactive questions and answers. Each session ends with a quiz. All nine sessions can be completed in 2 to 3 hours. Parents also receive workbooks containing program content and exercises to promote skill building and practice.


  1. Targeted Outreach (TO; University of Michigan): Targeted Outreach, operated by Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), is a gang prevention program that attempts to intervene with youths at risk of gang involvement. Targeted Outreach incorporates four objectives: community mobilization, recruitment, mainstreaming/programming, and case management. Youth are recruited into local Boys & Girls Clubs to participate in all aspects of club programming. Programs are offered in five core areas: character and leadership development; education and career development; health and life skills; the arts; and sports, fitness, and recreation.
  2. Teen Court (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill): This program is a specialized diversion programs for young offenders. The typical youth referred to teen court is 14 to 16 years old, in trouble with the police for the first time, and probably charged with vandalism, stealing, or some other non-violent offense. Teen courts offer these youth an alternative to the regular juvenile court process. Rather than going to juvenile court and risking formal prosecution and possible adjudication, a young offender can go through teen court and avoid what might have been the first stain on his or her legal record. In return, however, a young person in teen court is almost certain to get a rather stiff sentence. Many are required to do community service and pay restitution for any damages they may have caused. They may be ordered to write apology letters to their parent(s) and the victim of their offense, and perhaps an essay about the effects of crime on the community. Often, they must return to teen court to serve on juries for other cases. Compared to what they might have received in the regular juvenile court process for a first-time, non-violent offense, youth that agree to go to teen court get relatively severe sanctions.
  3. Project Sync (University of Michigan): Project Sync is a brief intervention program that provides one on one counseling to at risk youth when they present to the Emergency Department for violence related injuries. This intervention is adapted from the SafERteens brief intervention. This evidence based program is based on principles of Motivational Interviewing (MI) which focuses on enhancing motivation to change in a respectful, non-confrontational and non-judgmental manner. This one on one counseling method emphasizes choice and responsibility, supports self-efficacy and differentiates between current behavior and future goals/values. It allows the counselor to roll with resistance, and increases problem recognition, motivation, and self-efficacy for change. This brief intervention also involves normative resetting and skills training through role-playing responses to scenarios and focusing on refusal skills for conflict resolution and anger management.
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