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Children + Youth Resilience Program

Children + Youth Resilience Program

CorStone’s Children and Youth Resilience Program (CYRP) provides middle and high school students (ages 12-18) with knowledge, skills and support to enhance their resilience to psychological disorders and trauma, build self-esteem, improve social functioning and life skills, and ‘bounce back’ from adversity and conflict.
The program is of particular impact to students dealing with major life transitions such as the start of middle school, high school, or preparation for college, and personal and interpersonal challenges such as adolescence, poverty, divorce, bullying and gangs. In 2008-10 the CYRP was successfully launched with the 6th grade class of 280 students in a diverse, high-need middle school in San Rafael, CA.
The Program
The CYRP is based on scientific evidence and best practices from the latest research in youth development, social-emotional learning, and conflict resolution/community-building. The program is designed to be flexibly adapted to school-day schedules, after-school programs, and non-traditional youth-serving environments.

The program includes 26 one-hour facilitated peer group sessions, with approximately 10-12 students per group. A shortened form of the program of 12-16 weeks duration is also available. Each weekly session combines a structured curriculum grounded in a strengths-based youth development approach, with facilitated peer support designed to build collaboration and community, proactively address and mitigate conflict, and encourage peer problem solving.

Each session is co-facilitated by two adult group leaders, typically supervised MFT or MSW interns. Group leaders are trained by CorStone in an intensive 5-day training prior to commencement of the program, with periodic mentorship and support provided throughout its duration. At the inception of the program, a brief 2-3 hour training for school staff (teachers, administrators) is available as a component of the program.

Program Outcomes
CorStone partnered with UCSF, Global Health Sciences to independently evaluate program outcomes. The CYRP demonstrated measurable positive changes in optimism, internal locus of control, coping skills and social connectedness.

Reported outcomes also include more cohesive classroom, peer-group and school communities, and reductions in number and severity of disruptive incidents and suspensions. Anticipated longer-term outcomes include decreases in truancy, school dropout, and antisocial behaviors, along with improvement in school achievement.

Next Steps
CorStone seeks to partner with middle schools, high schools, after-school programs, recreation centers and institutional funders across the US interested to implement the Children and Youth Resilience Program in their communities. CorStone is particularly eager to positively impact disadvantaged adolescent girls who may not have access to resilience-based positive youth development programs.
Evidence and Background on CorStone's Approach
An important feature of emotional resilience in children and youth is the creation and maintenance of internal protective factors (Cove, et al., 2005). Youth who incorporate protective factors such as: disposition, social orientation, communication skills, self-concept, internal locus of control and desire to improve self are better equipped against outside stressors and anxiety (Berman, 2007).

CorStone’s Children and Youth Resilience Program uses four strength-based interventions that specifically target levels of these protective factors:

  1. Positive Psychology curriculum designed to increase optimism and reduce depression
  2. Emotional Competence to increase emotional awareness, regulation, and coping
  3. Peer support and discussion groups that enable students to develop social literacy and communication skills
  4. Restorative Practice techniques for conflict prevention and resolution.
Research demonstrates that students who participate in school-based programs that focus on social and emotional learning, compared to those who do not, improve significantly in terms of social and emotional skills; attitudes about themselves, others and school; social and classroom behavior; emotional distress such as anxiety and depression; achievement test scores (11 percentage points higher); and school grades (Weissberg, 2007).

The strength-building processes found in Positive Psychology have been shown to significantly improve many aspects of school for children (Franklin, Biever, Moore, Clemons, & Scamardo, 2001). These processes combined with increased emotional competence also appear to help to reverse negative trends in at-risk junior high students (Newsome, 2005); effectively combat behavioral problems in children (Corcoran & Stephenson, 2000); and serve as protective factors against depression and other mental illness (Seligman, 1996).

School peer support groups have evolved over the years to be a consistent way to help students through the challenging years of secondary school (Bernard, 1991, Turner, 1999). In addition to the comfort provided in showing students that they are not alone, support groups also enable students to create cohesiveness and awareness of situations outside their own life. Peer support has also shown to contribute to psychological well-being, and as such provide positive attitudes and better tools for dealing with stressful situations (Cowen, 1994).

Restorative Practices help individuals and communities to build social capital, positive connections and achieve effectiveness through participatory learning and decision-making. Restorative Practices have been shown to mend and build new connections among a community, rather than focusing on retribution and punishment (Roche, 2006). In Minnesota, for example, four school districts adopted restorative practices into their disciplinary methods, and found that conflict and disciplinary citations dropped 30-70% (Karp & Breslin, 2001). CorStone is a licensee of the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP).
More Research + Results
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