Get IN Chicago research suggests that a combination of certain factors can increase a young person’s risk of participating in gun violence.  Our Strengthening Youth through a Network of Care (SYNC) initiative was designed to meet the unique needs of this group, whom we term acutely-high risk, and a baseline analysis shows that we are succeeding in reaching them.

NORC at the University of Chicago recently completed an initial review of demographic data from our evaluation of the Eisenhower Foundation Quantum Youth Development program.  Part of SYNC, the program is currently being carried out by six Chicago organizations working with youth ages 13-18 who have risk factors for violence involvement.  The analysis includes information collected from 637 young people.

 

Study Participants by Age: Baseline Participant Analysis

Pie chart illustrating ages of study participants. The majority are 16-18 years old.

76% of study participants were aged 16-18, crucial years when, according to Chicago Police Department data, justice system involvement peaks. 

 

Demographic Profile
The majority of participants were Black or African-American (97%) and male (65%).  Notably, 76%  were aged 16-18 – crucial years when, according to Chicago Police Department data, violence/justice system involvement peaks.  Three quarters of youth (77%) reported that their families  are not facing regular financial hardship.

 

Acutely High-Risk Factors
Recognizing factors that place young people at elevated risk for violence is the first step to offering preventive services and ensuring they receive support to position them for success. Our work with Cook County Juvenile Probation and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago suggests that four or more arrests can raise a young person’s risk of violence participation significantly. 59% of those in the evaluation reported previous contact with police, and 26% experienced four or more contacts.

 

Notable Risk Factors: Baseline Participant Analysis

Our work with Cook County Juvenile Probation and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago suggests that four or more arrests can raise a young person’s risk of violence participation significantly. 59% of those in the evaluation reported previous contact with police, and 26% experienced four or more contacts.

 

Protective Factors
While risk factors help providers understand which youth to engage, protective factors are crucial to designing effective, strengths-based treatment plans.  The NORC team also reviewed strengths identified by youth, which can serve as opportunities to build unique, responsive programming.  In the past year, 82% of youth reported discussing personal issues with an adult inside the home, and 71% discussed issues with an adult outside of their home.

“These results suggest that a majority of SYNC participants have at least one trusted family member or adult connection to provide them with support,” said Dr. Toni Irving, Executive Director of Get IN Chicago. “They also have positive implications for parent engagement programs operating in concert with youth programming to better support family outcomes.”

The analysis sets an important baseline for understanding the program’s effect on factors such as school engagement and participation in criminal behaviors.  It also gives Get IN Chicago and partners critical participant information that can be used to shape future services and strategies.  Next steps include incorporating administrative data from juvenile justice agencies, police departments, and local schools to create a more holistic picture of these young people and their experiences.