Better Beginnings, Better Futures (BBBF)

Program snapshot

Age group: Early childhood (0-6); Late childhood (7-11)

Gender: Mixed (male and female)

Population served: Families

Topic: Antisocial/deviant behaviours; Social/economic disadvantage

Setting: Rural/remote area; Urban area; Community-based setting; School-based

Location: Ontario

Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: 1

Continuum of intervention: Secondary crime prevention

Brief Description

The Better Beginnings, Better Futures (BBBF) program is a comprehensive, community-based prevention initiative that is premised upon an ecological approach, using a combination of individual-, family-, and community-oriented strategies to decrease risk factors for delinquency and increase protective factors. The BBBF program is designed to prevent young children in low income, high risk neighbourhoods from experiencing poor developmental outcomes, which then require expensive health, education, and social services.

The program is centered on community mobilization; family therapy; leadership and youth development; parent training; school-based strategies; skills training; and social emotional learning.


The main goals of the BBBF program are to:

  • Reduce emotional and behavioural problems and promote social, emotional, behavioural, physical, and educational development in children;
  • Strengthen the abilities of parents and families to respond effectively to the needs of their children; and
  • Develop high-quality programs for children and their families that respond effectively to the local needs of the neighbourhood.


The appropriate clientele for the BBBF program is children (including their families) between the ages of 0 and 4 or 4 to 8 living in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods with multiple high risks for poor child development.

To participate in the program, participants and their families must reside within Better Beginnings communities and have these programs offered to them by participating schools within those communities.

Core Components

The BBBF program consists of:

  • Community-based activities that are carried out before, during, or after school, and/or during holidays and vacations (e.g., March Break). These activities may include (but are not limited to) home visits, athletics and recreation, educational workshops, and cultural supports;
  • Activities or interventions that are often integrated with other existing community-based programs; and
  • Activities or interventions chosen by local residents and parents.

Implementation Information

Some of the critical elements for the implementation of this program or initiative include the following:

  • Organizational requirements: The lead organization must address the ecological, universal, and community-driven components of the program and recognize that changes in families and communities are necessary to effect lasting, positive changes in children’s well-being. The lead organization must also ensure that participating schools incorporate these components in their BBBF activities. Organization is required to ensure that parents and community members are involved in the planning and delivery of these activities and offer an array of cultural supports based on community demographics.
  • Partnerships: Family or parental involvement is critical to the success of the program. BBBF programs are the most successful when they are carried out by schools that partner with other agencies like child welfare organizations, children’s mental health agencies, Aboriginal organizations, and neighbourhood associations.
  • Training and technical assistance: While training is not required, teachers, volunteers, and community organizations involved in implementing BBBF programs are encouraged to consult the training materials offered by members of the BBBF Research Group.
  • Risk assessment tools: Limited information on this topic.
  • Materials & resources: The BBBF Research Group has developed a Toolkit for Building Better Beginnings and Better Futures. The Toolkit covers all aspects of developing and implementing the various components of the Better Beginnings Model. The toolkit is available free of charge on the Better Beginnings website.

International Endorsements

The most recognized classification systems of evidence-based crime prevention programs have classified this program or initiative as follows:

  • Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development: Not applicable.
  • Crime Solutions/OJJDP Model Program Guide: Not applicable.
  • SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices: Not applicable.
  • Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy: Not applicable.

Gathering Canadian Knowledge

Canadian Implementation Sites

Public Safety Canada’s National Crime Prevention Strategy provided funding to implement the BBBF program in 5 disadvantaged communities (Cornwall, Sudbury, Highfield, Etobicoke, and Ottawa) in Ontario between 2009 and 2011. The BBBF program was implemented by the Research Coordination Unit at Queen’s University.

Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies

An outcome evaluation study of the BBBF program was conducted in 1997-2007 by Peters and colleagues. A quasi-experimental, longitudinal design was used to examine the long-term impacts of the BBBF program on the social, behavioural, and school functioning outcomes among school-aged children, their families, and their surrounding communities. From 1993 to 1997, when children were aged 4 to 8, programs were offered to participants (n = 601) at three Better Beginnings sites, namely Sudbury, Cornwall, and Highfield. These sites were matched with two comparison sites (n = 358) in Ottawa and Etobicoke. Throughout this longitudinal study, data were collected about participants’ social functioning when they were in Grade 3 (1997/1998), Grade 6 (2000/2001), Grade 9 (2003/2004), and Grade 12 (2006/2007).

Results from this evaluation showed the following:

  • Teachers between Grade 3 and Grade 9 rated youth from the BBBF sites as better prepared for school, requiring fewer special education services, demonstrating more adaptive functioning in school, showing fewer problems with hyperactivity/inattention and fewer emotional problems, and more likely to go further in school than youth from the comparison sites. Altogether, children at age 14-15 demonstrated increased social functioning; increased school functioning; decreased special education services; decreased emotional problems (teacher rated); and decreased behavioural problems (teacher rated); and
  • Research findings at Grade 12 showed that youth living in the Better Beginnings sites were less likely to report being involved in property crimes (29% compared to 40% of comparison youth) and viewed their neighbourhoods as safer, less deviant places to live than did youth from the comparison sites. Better Beginnings youth had higher grades in high school than youth from the comparison sites, were more likely to engage in regular exercise, and were less likely to use special education services. Altogether, children at age 18-19 showed increased wellbeing (e.g., positive outlook, personal insight).

For more information, refer to Peters et al.’s (2010a,b,c) publications.

A research study entitled Better Beginnings, Better Futures Study: Delinquency Trajectories of At-Risk Youth was funded by Public Safety Canada and used data drawn from the longitudinal research study, Better Beginnings Better Futures. For more information, refer to Craig, Petrunka and Khan’s (2011) publication.

Cost Information

In 2010, the cost per youth involved in the BBBF program was approximately $748 (CAD) per family per year. Cost-savings analysis revealed that by grade 9, there was a return of $1.31 (CAD) to the government for every dollar invested in the program. By the time participants were in Grade 12, the return had almost doubled, to $2.50 (CAD) per dollar of investment (Peters et al., 2010b).


Craig, W., Petrunka, K., & Khan, S. (2011). Better Beginnings, Better Futures Study: Delinquency Trajectories of At-Risk Youth. Research Report. Submitted to the National Crime Prevention Centre, Public Safety Canada. Available from:

Peters, R. D., et al. (2010a). The Better Beginnings, Better Futures Project: Findings from grade 3 to grade 9. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 75(3), 1-174.

Peters, R. D. et al. (2010b). Economic analysis. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 75, 100-120.

Peters, R. D., et al. (2010c). Investing in Our Future: Highlights of Better Beginnings, Better Futures Research Findings at Grade 12. Kingston, ON: Better Beginnings, Better Futures Research Coordination Unit, Queen’s University.

Roche, J., Petrunka, K., & Peters, R. D. (2008). Investing in Our Future: Highlights of Better Beginnings, Better Futures Research Findings at Grade 9. Kingston, ON: Better Beginnings, Better Futures Research Coordination Unit, Queen’s University.

For more information on this program, contact:

Better Beginnings, Better Futures Research Group
Department of Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University
75 University Avenue West
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3C5
Telephone: (519) 884-0710, ext. 2858

Record Entry Date - 2018-02-20
Record Updated On - 2018-04-23
Date modified: