Girls Circle

Program snapshot

Age group: Late childhood (7-11); Adolescence (12-17)

Gender: Female only

Population served: Aboriginal/Indigenous; Newcomers, immigrants and/or refugees; Youth in contact with law enforcement (and/or at risk)

Topic: Academic issues; Alcohol and/or drug use; Antisocial/deviant behaviours

Setting: Rural/remote area; Community-based setting

Location: Prince Edward Island

Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: 0

Continuum of intervention: Secondary crime prevention

Brief Description

The Girls Circle model is a unique gender-based program that addresses the needs of girls by focusing on increasing connections, building empathic skills, and developing resiliency. The Girls Circle model uses principles of motivational interviewing and strengths-based approaches that target protective factors through experiential activities and guided discussion. It has been utilized in a broad spectrum of settings with diverse populations and programs serving girls since 1994.


The main goals of the Girls Circle program are to:

  • Counteract social and interpersonal forces that impede girls’ growth and development by promoting an emotionally safe setting and structure within which girls can develop caring relationships and use authentic voices;
  • Improve social support (sense of belonging), body image (perception and acceptance of body), and self-efficacy (belief in the ability to accomplish meaningful actions and goals in life); and
  • Reduce offending and contact with the criminal justice system.


The appropriate clientele for the Girls Circle program is at-risk girls aged 9-18 years who are referred to the program by school counsellors, community youth workers, police and community partners. Girls must display at least two risk factors, including: early onset substance abuse; association with negative/older peers; poor school attendance/performance; inability to access needed community-based services; low self-esteem or self-efficacy; or contact with the police.

Core Components

The Girls Circle curriculum consists of a number of modules that focus on different topics and areas of need, including the following:

  • Being a Girl (8-week program)
  • Friendship (8-week program)
  • Body Image (8-week program)
  • Honouring our Diversity (12-week program)
  • Mind/Body/Sprit (12-week program)
  • Expressing My Individuality (8-week program)
  • Paths to the Future (12-week program)
  • My Family, My Self (8-week program)
  • Who I Am (8-week program)
  • Wise and Well (8-week program)
  • Relationships with Peers (10-week program)

Girls Circles are most often held weekly for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Each week the facilitator leads the group of girls through a format that includes each girl taking turns talking and listening to one another respectfully about their concerns and interests. The girls express themselves further through creative or focused activities such as role playing, drama, journaling, poetry, drama, dance, drawing, collage, clay, and so on. In addition to the delivery of the selected curriculum, referral and advocacy services are provided to connect Girls Circle participants with other community and government services as needed.

Implementation Information

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

  • Organizational requirements: An advisory committee consisting of members from key partner organizations should be established to guide the program work. Potential government and community programs/services that could support girls should be identified.
  • Partnerships: Organizations should collaborate with key stakeholders and potential partners from various different organizations. Partners should be provided with opportunities to contribute to the program work – share expertise, provide resources, make referrals, co-facilitate Girls Circles, sit on the advisory committee, etc.
  • Training and technical assistance: Girls Circle facilitation training is available.
  • Risk assessment tools: Limited information on this topic.
  • Materials & resources: Manuals of 11 different Girls Circle curriculum modules are available for purchase.

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 Girls Circle program in several communities in Prince Edward Island between 2011 and 2014. This included a francophone site, a First Nations site, as well as a partnership with the PEI Association of Newcomers to Canada, maximizing the diversity of the target group. The Girls Circle program was implemented by the Women’s Network PEI.

Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies

As part of Public Safety Canada’s funding, a process only evaluation studyFootnote1 of Girls Circle was completed by Nishka Smith Consulting. The evaluator employed a participatory evaluation approach that included an examination of how project activities unfolded, what worked well, what could be improved upon, participant satisfaction, and lessons learned.

Results from this evaluation showed the following:

  • There was support for the development of a safe environment for girls: Girls Circle curriculum was stated to be very comprehensive, educational and well organized. Project staff were also noted as being very open, responsive, respectful, and flexible in their approach.
  • Improvements were observed in the areas of social supports and body image. Of the 54 participants who completed evaluation surveys on their experiences in Girls Circle, 91% noted that the facilitators did a good job and were supportive, while 72% felt supported by other participants. Demonstrating improved perceptions and acceptance of the girls bodies and personalities, 87% of girls noted learning “why it is important to be kind to myself and others” while 83% learned to like themselves for who they are.
  • Partnerships were developed with 30 different organizations/programs that work with at-risk girls, and all partners who took part in the evaluation process were satisfied with how the partnerships unfolded, the level of support provided by project staff, and the extent to which they were kept up-to-date on the project work.

Cost Information

No information available.


Smith, N. (2014). Girls Circle Report. Final Evaluation Report. Submitted to the National Crime Prevention Centre, Public Safety Canada (Unpublished report).

For more information on this program, contact:

One Circle Foundation
734 A Street, Suite 4
San Rafael, California 94901
Telephone: (415) 419-5119

Record Entry Date - 2018-02-22
Record Updated On - 2021-04-29
  1. 1

    A process evaluation study of the program was conducted through Public Safety Canada’s funding. For more information, communicate with the Research Division, Public Safety Canada.

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