LifeSkills Training Program – LST Crime Prevention in Action

Table of contents

Public Safety Canada's National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC) develops and disseminates knowledge of effective crime prevention programs to help decision makers and practitioners in communities across the country make the best use of their crime prevention resources. To achieve this mandate, the NCPC supports selected, evidence-based crime prevention projects in communities across Canada and seeks to provide practical answers to three key questions: What works (with whom and in what circumstances), at what cost, and how. What works is identified by selectively evaluating carefully chosen crime prevention projects. The costs and cost-benefits are established through cost-benefit analyses. And the 'how' is determined by collecting and analyzing qualitative information from all organizations that the NCPC supports to implement interventions.

This Crime Prevention in Action publication provides information on the LifeSkills® Training (LST) Program and the LST projects that the NCPC has supported in locations across Canada. It addresses issues to be considered when implementing the LST program. In particular, it considers the following questions: When is LST appropriate? What are some key characteristics of organizations most suited for implementing LST? How are participants successfully recruited? And, what are the key partnerships that will foster the success of LST?

What is Evidence-Based Crime Prevention?

Chronic offenders do not appear suddenly in the criminal justice system. They have a history and pathway that can often be traced back to various identifiable risk factors in their lives, as well as missed opportunities to change those pathways. Studies, conducted in various countries, demonstrate that pathways to chronic offending can be traced back to ages 7–8, when young people, especially boys, begin demonstrating risk factors associated with crime. These factors have been well documented both internationally and in Canada and include, for example, early aggressiveness, poor peer relations and early substance use.

Pathways to a life of crime are not inevitable. Many of the risk factors can be changed if focused interventions are delivered to the right people at the right time in their lives. When opportunities to intervene are missed, the costs and difficulties of responding effectively increase.

Evidence-based crime prevention rests on intervention principles and methods established through research to address risk factors known to be associated with offending behaviour among those who are at risk. Implementing this approach can result in reductions over time in offending and victimization and their associated costs, and increase community safety.

What is LST?

Botvin LifeSkills® Training (LST) is a research-validated substance abuse prevention program developed over 30 years ago by Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin, a leading expert in substance abuse prevention and health behaviour in the United States. Premature and addictive use of substances is a well-established risk factor related to criminal and delinquent behaviour.

LST is a school-based prevention program that targets early drug and alcohol use by adolescents, especially those in junior high school (grades 6 and 7). The main goals of the LST Program are to prevent substance use amongst adolescents and to promote healthy alternatives to risky behaviour through activities designed to:

No license is required to implement the LST model, but assistance with training and technical support is provided by National Health Promotion Associates, Inc.

LST – The Evidence

Evidence of the effectiveness of the LST Program comes from over 30 scientific studies that began in the 1980s. It is recognized as a model or exemplary program by an array of government agencies, especially in the United States, and has been used in over 30 countries worldwide.

The early research focused on cigarette smoking and involved predominantly white, middle-class populations. Research was later extended to other problem behaviors, including substance use. More recent studies also examined the effectiveness of LST on HIV/AIDS risk behaviors, risky driving, and violence and delinquency. Footnote 1

With time, studies increasingly focused on the utility of LST when used with inner-city, minority populations. These studies also assessed the long-term effects of LST, its impact on factors that could influence results, implementation fidelity (i.e. the extent to which the intervention is implemented as designed) and methods of improving the latter. Footnote 2

Controlled trials of LST have demonstrated a reduction in drug use among participants by up to 75%, and alcohol and tobacco use by up to 60% and 87% respectively. Verbal/physical aggression, fighting and delinquency have been shown to be reduced by up to 50%. Evaluations of the LST Program have also demonstrated that the program can result in sustained positive outcomes at one year, three years, and six years. Footnote 3

In terms of cost effectiveness, studies by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy and Pennsylvania State University report more than $25 in benefits per $1 spent in implementing LST. Footnote 4

Public Safety Canada is contributing to the growth of the evidence on LST through the evaluation of the NCPC LST projects. A 2011–2014 impact evaluation of the LST Program delivered in Edmonton, Alberta, for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth, will be the first of its kind in Canada, and in an Aboriginal setting. The evaluation will look at the effectiveness of the model in that environment, including the changes that were made to the curriculum in order to make it relevant for that population.

The other LST projects supported by the NCPC conducted process evaluations that will provide insights into implementing the LST Program.

“Thanks to the program, I will say NO to drugs and alcohol, and try and be better to people.” – LST program participant

LST Projects funded by the National Crime Prevention Centre

Public Safety Canada's National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC) has supported six LST pilot projects in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The projects are funded through either the Crime Prevention Action Fund or the Northern and Aboriginal Crime Prevention Fund and all of them included strong Aboriginal cultural components. In many of the projects, adaptations to the LST Program were made for after-school formats and community-based settings.

LST Projects funded by the National Crime Prevention Centre

Sponsoring Organization

Project Location

# Sites

LST® Program

Other Information

Pilot Phase





Ben Calf Robe Society

“It Takes a Whole Community to Raise a Child”

Edmonton, AB





(adapted for after-school format)

Number of children: 80

First LST program to be evaluated in a Canadian context, and in an Aboriginal setting.

Jan. 2010 – June 2013


Paskwawaskihk Administration

“Capturing Our Youth”

Website N/A

Little Red River Reserve No. 106B, Montreal Lake Cree Nation, SK





Number of children: 186 (age 6‑17)

Sept. 2009 – Sept. 2012


Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation

“Pelican Narrows Life Skills Training Project”

Pelican Narrows, SK





(based in a cultural centre)

Number of children: 326 (age 6‑17)

Dec. 2009 – Jun. 2012


Creating Hope Society of Alberta

“Reclaiming Our Own Spirit”

Edmonton, AB





(adapted for after-school format)

Number of children: 88 (age 12‑15)

Sept. 2009 – Oct. 2012


Okanese First Nation No. 82

“Okanese Youth Lifeskills Program”

Website N/A

Okanese First Nation,
Balcarres, SK  S0G 0C0

Okanese First Nation No. 82, SK





(community-based, after-school program)

Number of children: 59 (age 9‑18)

June 2010 – March 2013


West Region Child and Family Services (WRCFS)

“Roots and Wings”

Website N/A

255 Sherbrook St.
Winnipeg, MB R3C 2B8

Ebb and Flow First Nation;

Gambler First Nation;

Keeseekoowenin First Nation;

Skownan First Nation;

Waywayseecappo First Nation;

and WRCFS children in care Winnipeg, MB


(5 on-reserve, 1 in Winnipeg)




(both school and community program)

Number of children: 240

(age 11‑17) of which 186 were in school-based programs, and 54 in community-based programs. 21% were children in care.

Feb. 2010 – Jan. 2013

The LST Program

The LST Program criteria for participant selection include youth who display behavioural problems at an early age, hostility, aggression and a deficit in social skills, use drugs/alcohol, and/or have been involved with the law or Children's Services at a young age.

The first step in all LST programs is an in-depth assessment to clearly understand specific risks for the children and youth taking part in the program. Individual, peer, neighbourhood and community risk factors are taken into account. These include favourable attitudes towards substance use and actual substance use; interaction with antisocial peers, peer substance use; and laws and norms favourable to drug use/crime.

LST is typically delivered by classroom teachers, counselors, peer leaders, and health professionals and can be implemented with students from elementary, middle/junior and high schools. Age-appropriate curriculum materials are available for each group. The program can be taught either on an intensive schedule (two to three times a week), or on a more extended schedule (once a week) until the program is complete. Both formats have proven to be effective. While one year of LST has demonstrated positive effects, multi-year implementation is strongly recommended.

The main LST Programs are:

Is LST the appropriate program for your community?

The National Crime Prevention Centre recommends a thorough analysis of the local situation in any given community prior to deciding what crime prevention program to implement. Footnote 5

A portrait of the local situation provides a clear overview of the population, emerging risk behaviours or problem situations, risk factors and the context in which they occur. This assessment helps understand what influences people to make the decisions to adopt risky behaviours. The portrait also includes an inventory of organizations, resources and programs in the community and, through discussions among community members and service providers, begins to build the shared understandings of issues and gaps in the community that can lead to strong partnerships.

A comprehensive portrait of the local situation can identify the crime prevention programs that are best suited to the people and behaviours of concern and to the strengths of the community. For example, if the analysis of the community determines that a majority of offencesincluding family violence―are alcohol and drug related, or that children and youth are exposed to early substance use, violence or poverty, or lack coping skills, and that there are gaps in terms of services available for these youth and their families, the LST program might be worth further investigation.

Some modifications and cultural adaptations to the LST program may be required to meet the needs of specific populations. This was the case for the six projects funded by the NCPC that focused predominantly on Aboriginal youth.

These modifications must not affect the fundamentals of the program. The LST curriculum remains at the core of the program, and the adaptations reflect understanding of the learning styles of the participants and combine relevant cultural, recreational and community-based activities.

LST activities sometimes include the community at large in order to influence attachment, community pride, pro-social support networks, teamwork, emotional control and healthy decision-making.

Choosing LST – The “Roots and Wings” Story:

The over-representation of Aboriginal people in drug-related and family violence offences, suicides and penal institutions is thoroughly documented and common knowledge. These troubling statistics are not numbers, they are our children! They record the trail of tears for Aboriginal children who walk from child welfare into homelessness, correctional institutions or who return home with no skills to cope with personal trauma or change the destructive family path of violence, delinquency, and substance use.

There are 9,730 Aboriginal children in foster care in Manitoba. Approximately 625 of them receive service from the West Region Child and Family Services (WRCFS), including half residing with their families in Winnipeg, the provincial capital. By definition, these children are in care due to some level of family violence or victimization, with addictions being a major contributing factor. According to law enforcement, 80% of all offences on reserve―including family violence―are alcohol and drug related.

After examining options for programs to develop, we decided on “Roots and Wings”, an early intervention, culturally adapted LST program for youth.

We met with Band Councils, school principals and, in two communities, their Circle of Care, which includes representation from health, child and family services, education and training.

The goal of this community mobilization process was to engage service providers in a network of support for the youth in the program, and sustain “Roots and Wings” over the longer term.

All site communities were very receptive to the youth life skills program. Existing child welfare prevention staff and community service providers were trained and mentored in the delivery of the Botvin LST, and the Manitoba-developed, culturally-appropriate Bimaadiziwin: – A LifeSkills® Training Coach. Footnote 6

With the support of peers, caring adults and Elders who provided cultural teachings, Roots and Wings addressed violence and drug use among youth from a community centre in Winnipeg and in five rural communities.

“Roots and Wings” participants' testimonies:

“Thank you to the Roots and Wings leaders for helping me to learn more about how to help and feel better about myself. I will always remember the lessons you taught us and I will miss you guys.”

“Thank you for coming to Wayway to teach us life skills, going through the muddy/icy roads just to teach us/be with us!”

What types of organizations are best suited for implementing LST?

Organizations that have some experience delivering child and family programming, are culturally knowledgeable about the participant population, and have the commitment of management and support of partners—especially the schools—are well suited to implementing the LST model.

The LST program is easy to use and can be implemented by people with a variety of backgrounds including teachers, school counselors, prevention specialists, community youth educators, and health care professionals. Training is available and the LST curriculum set is an important implementation resource. Footnote 7

LST is designed to be implemented in a classroom setting. It is usually administrated by a community organization in partnership with schools. LST has also been successfully implemented in a variety of other settings, including after-school programs, summer camps, and through community and faith-based organizations.

Implementing LST requires teams of staff, including Program Managers/LST Coordinators, LST instructors, Community Activity Coordinators, as well as Elders and cultural leaders when taking place in Aboriginal settings. Staff are involved in a variety of work such as assessments, facilitating group and classroom activities, working one on one with participants and parents/caregivers, meeting with school staff, police, child welfare, Aboriginal Band Councils and other partners, record keeping, marketing and evaluation.

Hiring the appropriate staff is critical for the success of the program. The most relevant combinations of education, experience, cultural competence and personality traits required vary depending on the team being created. Selecting a good complement of staff and providing training and support for them will make all the difference in the implementation and success of the program.

Ensuring consistent LST instructors and project staff who can engage a broader audience of at-risk youth and are committed to a given community and job for at least the length of the project is a major asset in a program. In the case of our project, staff turnover had a major impact on program delivery. Fortunately, when the original Instructor and Elder resigned, we found someone who was both a recognized Elder as well as a former teacher, so the positions were merged. In the end, this worked out for the best. She was effective at gaining the attention and respect of students in the classroom.

– LST Program Staff

Involving LST participants

Youth who participate in the LST program are at risk of involvement with drugs and alcohol, and delinquent behaviour. It is important to make sure the children and youth who participate in the program are the ones it was designed for and who will benefit the most from it.

The criteria for participation usually include youth who display behavioural problems at an early age, a deficit in social skills, hostility and aggression, use drugs/alcohol, and/or have been involved with the law or Children's Services at a young age.

The main methods of recruiting participants and promoting program activities are through school staff, school announcements, child services, community leaders and partners, posters/leaflets, and word of mouth. Effective referrals are increased when all stakeholders share a clear and ongoing understanding of the LST mandate, role, and parameters.

Engaging parents and meeting transportation needs of participants when programs are given outside school premises or after school hours have also been shown to influence students' recruitment, participation and attendance/drop-out.

To reach out to the children and youth in our community, we made sure to contact parents. Kids received leaflets to give to their parents. We also put notices and posters on the bus. The close relationship between the kids and the staff was key to the success of the program, as well as the involvement of Elders. Food was a major incentive in keeping participants engaged, as teenagers are hungry! We started with snacks, but soon realized more was needed. Sharing meals and learning about healthy food choices were also part of increasing social skills. We provided transportation as well. Without that, nothing happens! Someone was hired to drive the kids home if necessary. If one of them dropped out of the program, we would pick up the phone and contact them or their parents. The hardest group to engage were girls between the ages of 13 and 14, as they are very peer driven and, at that age, often fear being exposed to group judgment. Overall, however, we had an amazing youth engagement in the program. I recall the story of two boys who were very good friends. One day, both of them started talking to us, opening up and sharing how they didn't want to follow their parents and older siblings' path of substance use and unhealthy life choices. They were not looking forward to the weekends, as drinking activities increase on weekends. These boys became very involved in every activity we organized, always ready to volunteer, and even asked to be part of a sweat lodge event with the Elders. Today, both are 15 years old, and are still clean, which is really something quite rare given their age, family and peer background, and is certainly cause for celebration.

- LST program staff

“When kids get into trouble, they do so outside of the classroom. Working with youth in the community, in the forest where they live, would be a major triumph worth pursuing.”

– LST program staff

Engaging Partners

The issues faced by children and families are complex and often require the combined efforts of many service providers to find resolution.

Strong partnerships, early engagement and constructive communication between school administrators, teachers and project staff are essential to successfully implementing LST school-based programs.

Information sharing, involvement and support from various other community partners―including the education, health, and justice sectors or the business community―are also essential to ensuring that program activities take place, are promoted, and can be sustained over the longer term.

Building and nurturing strong and relevant partnerships and working relationships lead to higher levels of community engagement and, in turn, this increases the chances of success for shifting existing resources and investing new resources in ongoing support of the LST program.

Partnerships develop differently depending on their purposes. Sometimes partners are providing support by sharing information or awareness about each others' programs and services. On the other hand, sometimes partners are integral to each others' program and service delivery and concrete agreements need to be established to guide the ongoing partnership.

The charts below demonstrate the importance of partnerships in the delivery of LifeSkills® Training (LST). They show what sectors partnered with the LST projects that Public Safety Canada's NCPC funded and what kinds of contributions those partners made to the projects.

Based on the partners identified by each LST-sponsoring organization in their bi-annual performance monitoring reports, the following chart represents a compilation of all the partnerships for the projects, which is then categorized by partnership sector type. For the NCPC LST projects taken as a whole, close to one quarter (24%) of all partnerships were with organizations from the education sector, with an additional 37% coming from Aboriginal agencies or organizations as well as Aboriginal Tribal or Band Councils (at 20% and 17%, respectively).

Percentage of Total Partnerships by Sector

This chart illustrates the percentages of total partnerships by sector reported by NCPC funded LST projects.
* "Government" refers to partnerships with local/municipal governments, provincial/territorial governments and the federal government.
Image Description

This chart illustrates the percentages of total partnerships by sector reported by NCPC funded LST projects:

Education: 24%
Police: 3%
Health/Mental Health: 7%
Government: 5%
Community, Social or Voluntary Services: 12%
Community Coalition or Network: 3%
Aboriginal Agencies or Organizations: 20%
Aboriginal Tribal or Band Councils: 17%
Arts and Culture: 3%
Religious/Faith: 2%
Other: 3%

Percentage of Total Contributions by Type

Based on the type of contributions made by partners, along with information identified by each sponsoring organization in their bi-annual performance reports, the following chart represents a compilation of all the individual partner contributions for the projects categorized by contribution type, which is then separated by partnership sector.

For all but the community-based organizations and services and the Aboriginal agencies and organizations, at least one third of total contributions for each partnership sector were the provision of in-kind contributions, ranging from 33% for the police and government sectors to 60% for the health/mental health sector. Additionally, for all but the community-based organizations and services and the “other” sector, at least one third of total contributions for each partnership sector was the provision of staff to deliver some of the project activities and/or provide training services, ranging from 29% for the Aboriginal Tribal or Band Councils to 66% for the government sector. For the community-based organizations and services, one third of the partners made referrals (27%) and another one third accepted referrals (27%) from the LST program.

Percentage of Total Contributions by Type

This chart illustrates the percentages of total contributions for each sector by contribution type as reported by NCPC funded LST projects
*“Community-Based Organization or Service” refers to partnerships with community, social or volunteer services and community coalitions or networks.
** “Other” includes arts and culture and religious/faith sectors among others.
Image Description

This chart illustrates the percentages of total contributions for each sector by contribution type as reported by NCPC funded LST projects:

Education Sector

Make Referrals: 18%
Accept Referrals: 0%
Provide Staff/Training: 32%
In-Kind Contribution: 45%
Financial Contribution: 0%
Other: 5%


Make Referrals: 33%
Accept Referrals: 0%
Provide Staff/Training: 33%
In-Kind Contribution: 33%
Financial Contribution: 0%
Other: 0%

Health/Mental Health Sector

Make Referrals: 0%
Accept Referrals: 0%
Provide Staff/Training: 40%
In-Kind Contribution: 60%
Financial Contribution: 0%
Other: 0%

Government Sector

Make Referrals: 0%
Accept Referrals: 0%
Provide Staff/Training: 66%
In-Kind Contribution: 33%
Financial Contribution: 0%
Other: 0%

Community-Based Organizations or Services

Make Referrals: 27%
Accept Referrals: 27%
Provide Staff/Training: 18%
In-Kind Contribution: 18%
Financial Contribution: 0%
Other: 27%

Aboriginal Agencies or Organizations

Make Referrals: 29%
Accept Referrals: 14%
Provide Staff/Training: 36%
In-Kind Contribution: 14%
Financial Contribution: 0%
Other: 7%

Aboriginal Tribal or Band Councils

Make Referrals: 0
Accept Referrals: 0
Provide Staff/Training: 29
In-Kind Contribution: 43
Financial Contribution: 21
Other: 7


Make Referrals: 0%
Accept Referrals: 0%
Provide Staff/Training: 0%
In-Kind Contribution: 40%
Financial Contribution: 20%
Other: 40%


LST offers well-researched, cognitive-behavioural programs that have demonstrated positive results in lowering the incidence and prevalence of drug and alcohol use as well as violence among youth. Through the knowledge, self-management and social skills development fostered by the LST, children and youth reduce problem behaviours that are risk factors for future contact with police and the criminal justice system.

Through the LST projects that the National Crime Prevention Centre is supporting, Public Safety Canada is helping to build the evidence of how LST works with Aboriginal youth. As knowledge about these projects becomes available, it will be documented and shared with practitioners, policy makers and other decision-makers to help determine the best use of crime prevention resources for communities in Canada.

To find out more about Botvin LifeSkills® Training and other crime prevention approaches:

End Notes

  1. 1

    Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development, LST Program, University of Colorado Boulder, 2012.

  2. 2

    Life Skills Training: Empirical Findings and Future Direction, Gilbert J. Botvin and Kenneth W. Griffin, The Journal of Primary Prevention, Vol. 25, No. 2, October 2004.

  3. 3

    For more information, go to

  4. 4

    Studies referenced in Blueprints for Violence Prevention Life Skills Training Program and Positive Educational Outcomes, p.4

  5. 5

    NCPC Guide to Select Model and Promising Programs

  6. 6

    Bimaadiziwin LST was developed in Manitoba by the West Region Life Skills Coaches, the Vision Seekers Initiative, and Sawano Pinesiwan. Bimaadiziwin has post-secondary accreditation from Red River Community College. The training is jointly owned by West Region Child and Family Services and Sawano Pinesiwan.

  7. 7

    One to two days of personalized training on the LST model is provided by certified LifeSkills® trainers, either on-site or off-site (usually in the USA). For more information, contact the National Health Promotion Associates, Inc. (USA) at or visit their website at

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