Identity-Based Intervention: Preventing Criminal Gang Involvement of Youth from Immigrant Families

Program snapshot

Age group: Adolescence (12-17); Young adult (18-24)

Gender: Mixed (male and female)

Population served: Adult offenders; Gang-involved (and/or at risk); Newcomers, immigrants and/or refugees; Visible minority/ethnic group; Youth in contact with law enforcement (and/or at risk)

Topic: Academic issues; Gang and/or related criminal activities

Setting: Urban area; Community-based setting

Location: Alberta

Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: 1

Continuum of intervention: Secondary crime prevention; Tertiary crime prevention

Brief Description

Identity-Based Intervention: Preventing Criminal Gang Involvement of Youth from Immigrant Families is a program that works to prevent and/or reduce the involvement of youth from immigrant families in criminal gangs. This program, which is based on the Wraparound approach,Footnote1 also seeks to support service partners and community groups to achieve cultural competence and sustained coordination of services.

The program is centered on academic support; community mobilization; conflict resolution; counselling and social work; job employment; leadership and youth development; mentoring – tutoring; peer counselling and mediation; skills training; and social emotional learning.


The main goals of the Identity-Based Intervention are to:

  • Support youth to develop a positive self-identity and a positive ethnic identity;
  • Support youth to develop a positive Canadian identity; and
  • Prevent and reduce the involvement of youth from immigrant families in criminal gangs.


The appropriate clientele for the Identity-Based Intervention are youth between the ages of 12 and 24 years old who are either first generation immigrants (those born outside of Canada) or second generation Canadians (those with at least one parent born outside of Canada).

Participants are referred to the Identity-Based Intervention by youth probation services, the Calgary Police Service, immigrant serving agencies, schools, and ethno-cultural community groups. To participate in the program, youth must be currently involved in gangs or at risk of gang involvement. Youth must have also dropped out of school, been expelled, or been in contact with youth probation and police officers.

Core Components

The Identity-Based Intervention consists of:

  • Individualized intervention: Individualized intervention involves intake assessment, development and implementation of a needs-based intervention plan, and coordination of services and support for the gang-involved youth who have been referred to the program;
  • Positive mentorship: All youth are matched with peer and adult mentors both in their ethno-specific communities and in the broad community. Staff members serve as mentorship coordinators and work closely with youth involved in the program;
  • Academic support: The intervention draws on existing resources in the school and community, and addresses gaps in the educational support for the youth. Staff work with youth and their families to assess learning needs of the youth and to set educational goals;
  • Employment and life skills support: The intervention draws on existing services and provides additional support to address service gaps. Staff work with youth and a life coach to assess the youth’s employability and set employment goals. They also connect youth to existing service and community resources to address employment needs and provide employment and life skills training;
  • Prosocial activities: Activities are designed to support the youth to keep negative influences in their lives at a distance and to disengage from antisocial peers, while at the same time helping them to develop an attachment to the community and to develop positive identities and a sense of belonging; and
  • Support for family functioning: This component of the intervention recognizes the importance of family and positive family functioning in the lives and well-being of the youth from immigrant families. Staff connect youth and families to family resources and provide family coaching to address issues related to parenting, communication, and acculturative gaps among family members.

Implementation Information

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

  • Organizational requirements: The lead organization must have solid skills in outreach, case planning, and program delivery. The lead organization must also have written policies regarding cultural competence in order to meet the needs of different ethno-cultural youth participating in the program.
  • Partnerships: The success of the Identity-Based Intervention depends on its partnerships with Alberta Health Services, the Boys and Girls Club of Calgary, the Calgary Board of Education, the Calgary Catholic School District, Calgary Family Services, and other community-based organizations.
  • Training and technical assistance: Staff must be trained in the Wraparound approach before they are able to administer the Identity-Based Intervention to youth. Staff must also participate in training pertaining to identity-based interventions, vulnerable youth, and safety and security.
  • Risk assessment tools: Limited information on this topic.
  • Materials & resources: Limited information on this topic.

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 Identity-Based Intervention program in Calgary (Alberta) between 2013 and 2019. The Identity-Based Intervention is being implemented by the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary.

Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies

As part of Public Safety Canada’s funding, an outcome evaluation study of Identity-based Wraparound Intervention (IBWI) was conducted in 2018 by Guyn Cooper Research Associates Ltd.  A quasi-experimental design was used to evaluate Identity-based Wraparound Intervention (IBWI).  A basic repeated measures design was used, with information collected from participants upon admission to the program, and then at six-, 12-, and 18-month intervals during participation, where applicable, and at six months post participation, where possible.

To determine the impact of IBWI on participants, participant outcomes were compared with those of four comparison groups.  Results from this evaluation showed the following:

  • IBWI completers demonstrated improvements on the Youth Questionnaire (YQ) and Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (YLS-CMI) in several intermediate outcome domains, including anger/frustration, attitudes toward conflict, delinquent attitudes, and family functioning.
  • A substantial decrease in criminal activity was observed among IBWI participants during the six month follow-up period; this change was statistically significant relative to the comparison groups.  Of the 35 program completers in the sample, 34 had enough follow-up time to be included in the analysis.  Of the 34 youth, only one (3%) appeared in the Calgary Police Service charge records during the follow-up period.

Cost Information

Between 2013-2014 and 2018-2019, the cost per participant was $47,894, and the cost per graduate was $87,779.*

* Over the entire 2013-18 IBWI pilot program, the cost per graduate was $177,891.  However, the first IBWI graduation did not occur until December of 2016, and there were only three more in all of 2016.  In order to get a more realistic estimate of what spending per successful youth would be in an established program of this nature, the Report looked at the two fiscal years 2016-17 and 2017-18, during which time there were 33 clients who completed the program. The cost per graduate then becomes $87,779 for those two periods.


Guyn Cooper Research Associates Ltd. (2018). Identity-based Wraparound Intervention (IBWI) Project Evaluation. Final Evaluation Report. Submitted to Public Safety Canada (Unpublished report).

For more information on this program, contact:

University of Calgary, Faculty of Social Work
2500 University Drive
Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4
Telephone: (403) 220-5942

Record Entry Date - 2018-02-23
Record Updated On - 2021-04-29
  1. 1

    For more information on Wraparound, refer to the program descriptive sheet.

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