Youth At Risk Development (YARD)

Program snapshot

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

Gender: Mixed (male and female)

Population served: Aboriginal/Indigenous; Gang-involved (and/or at risk); Visible minority/ethnic group; Youth in contact with law enforcement (and/or at risk)

Topic: Antisocial/deviant behaviours; Gang and/or related criminal activities

Setting: Urban area; Community-based setting

Location: Alberta

Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: 2

Continuum of intervention: Secondary crime prevention

Brief Description

The Youth at Risk Development (YARD) program is a city-wide program that focuses primarily on prevention and intervention, addressing the roots of gang involvement at the individual level by emphasizing social development and rehabilitation.

The YARD was based on the Wraparound approachFootnote1 and was centered on conflict resolution; counselling and social work; leadership and youth development; parent training; skills training; social emotional learning; substance prevention/treatment; and truancy prevention.


The main goals of the YARD program are to:

  • Decrease antisocial peer association and positive attitudes toward gangs;
  • Improve family relationships and relationships with supportive adults; and
  • Decrease criminal activity.


The appropriate clientele for the YARD program is youth (including, but not limited to, Aboriginal and African youth) between the ages of 10 and 17 who have antisocial peer associations, and are gang-involved or are at risk of engaging in gang-related criminal activity.

Participants are referred to the YARD program by probation services, schools, police agencies, family members, and friends. A YARD referral form is available online.

Youth participation is voluntary. To participate in the program, youth do not need to be involved in the criminal justice system or to have committed a criminal offence.

Core Components

The YARD program consists of:

  • Individual assessments: Youth eligibility is determined by a combination of referrals, the staff's professional judgment, and the Youth Primary Identification Screening Tool, which places youth into low, average, and high categories of risk;
  • Case management: The participant, their family, and staff develop an individualized case plan that focuses on strengthening protective factors and reducing risk factors;
  • Direct contact with the YARD team: YARD staff provide direct interventions by serving as mentors and offering direct support in their interactions with youth and parents;
  • Referrals: Youth are referred to a variety of community resources including educational, training and employment programs, leadership programs, counselling services, and recreational activities; and
  • Support services to parents: The program tries to involve participants’ families by providing support, offering referrals, and providing assistance with food and clothing.

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; intake and assessment; and case planning. This will ensure that at-risk youth in need of intervention are able to access the YARD program.
  • Partnerships: The success of the YARD program depends on its many partnerships with schools, health services, treatment centres, probation services, police agencies, and other community-based organizations.
  • Training and technical assistance: Staff must be trained in the Wraparound approach and on how to implement risk assessment tools.
  • Risk assessment tools: The Youth Primary Identification Screening Tool, which places youth into low, average, or high risk categories, is needed to help determine youths’ eligibility for participation in the program.
  • 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 YARD program in Calgary, Alberta between 2008 and 2011. The YARD program was implemented by the Youth Education and Intervention Unit of the Calgary Police Service (CPS).

Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies

Study 1

As part of Public Safety Canada’s funding, an outcome evaluation studyFootnote2 of the YARD program was conducted between 2008-2011 by the Prairie Research Associates. A mixed methods design was used to assess the impact of the YARD program on participants. Pre- and post-test comparisons were made between entry into the program and after 6 months. Case studies were also conducted with 14 youth to provide qualitative support for key findings.

Results from this evaluation showed the following:

  • There was a 49% decrease in positive attitudes toward gangs. While results of the pre- and post-comparisons were non-significant, trends in the data showed that youth’s relationship with negative peers had decreased;
  • Results of pre- and post- paired samples t-test analyses showed a small decrease (statistically significant) in the mean number of charges for gang-involved youth, and a slightly larger decrease (also statistically significant) for youth at risk of gang involvement; and
  • Results also showed a substantial decline in the severity of charges after youth had been admitted to YARD. However, none of the results were statistically significant, mostly due to the large va riance of the monthly weighted charges.

For more information, refer to the National Crime Prevention Centre’s (2012) publication.

Study 2

An outcome evaluation study of the YARD program was conducted in 2011-2014 by Guyn Cooper Research Associates Ltd. A three-year quasi-experimental evaluation of the YARD program was conducted. Pre- and post-test measures were conducted with youth who participated in the YARD program and two comparison groups of youth who did not participate in the program. A Youth Questionnaire was developed to capture pre- and post-participation data in various domains. The evaluation also included a measurement of participants’ criminal involvement (n=148) before and after participation, and a comparison of participants’ pre- and post-program criminal involvement against that of two control groups.

Results from this evaluation showed the following:

  • There was a considerable difference in the success of reducing criminal charges between YARD participants (69% successful) and the two comparison groups (59% and 32% respectively). These differences were statistically significant (p=.003); and
  • There were positive changes in selected risk and protective factors. More specifically, 13 of 29 respondents reported a positive change for constructive use of time, a statistically significant change (p=.024).

For more information, refer to Guyn Cooper Research Associates Ltd.’s (2014) publication.

Cost Information

Between 2008 and 2010, the total cost of administering the YARD program was approximately $1,914, 539 (CAD) or $23,348 (CAD) per participant (National Crime Prevention Centre, 2012).


Guyn Cooper Research Associates Ltd. (2014). Youth at Risk Development (YARD) Program: 2014 Final Evaluation Report. Final Evaluation Report. (Unpublished Report).

National Crime Prevention Centre. (2012). Youth At Risk Development. Evaluation Summary. Ottawa, ON: Public Safety Canada. Available from: 

Prairie Research Associates. (2011). Evaluation of the Youth at Risk Development Program: Final Evaluation Report. Submitted to the National Crime Prevention Centre, Public Safety Canada (Unpublished report).

For more information on this program, contact:

Calgary Police Service

5111 47 Street North East

Calgary, Alberta T3J 3R2

Telephone: (403) 266-1234



Record Entry Date - 2018-03-15
Record Updated On - 2021-04-29
  1. 1

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

  2. 2

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

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