Stop Now And Plan (SNAP®) Projects
Number 9 – January 2013
What have we learned about implementing the Stop Now And Plan (SNAP®) Program across Canada?
The National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC) is evaluating the extent to which the SNAP® program benefits children who have behavioural challenges, including bullying, aggression, rule-breaking and conduct problems. The data for two (Toronto and Edmonton) of the three evaluated SNAP® projects are presented in this paper. These programs are delivered in both urban and rural settings for Aboriginal and other populations, which help us determine if the model could be implemented with different target groups in a variety of regions.
The SNAP® model targets boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 12, who have a prior history of police contact and have been identified as the most likely to engage in aggressive and delinquent behaviour. There are two main program components. The first component, the SNAP® Boy's Group and the SNAP® Girl's Club, is a 12-week, gender-specific program that teaches impulse/self-control and problem-solving skills (it uses cognitive therapy to teach children to snap their fingers prior to engaging in impulsive behaviours). The second component includes a group for parents that teaches them how to interact with their children. Additional program activities include individual counselling/mentoring, family counselling, academic tutoring, youth leadership and a gender-specific component called Girls Growing Up Healthy.
The evaluation of the Toronto and Edmonton sites utilized standard surveys to compare SNAP® participants with children who did not participate in the SNAP® program. This type of assessment determines if potential changes in the children's behaviours are related to the services provided by the program. These surveys were used to collect data before and after the SNAP® participants completed the 12-week session component of the program.
The evaluators also used a second approach that measured long-term changes in SNAP® participants up to 12 months after the program. This analysis did not compare SNAP® participants with children who did not participate in the program due to limited data.
Project staff collected data from a total of 125 participants to determine if the SNAP® program contributed to favourable changes in rule-breaking, aggression, conduct, attention problems, anxiety, depression, and pro-social behaviours.
The results for scales completed by parents indicate that, after completing the SNAP® program, children's externalizing behaviours decreased in almost all scales. Specifically, the results indicate that up to 12 months after participating in the program, SNAP® children demonstrated favourable changes in externalizing behaviours. These types of behaviours refer to problems that reflect a child's negative reactions to his/her environment. Externalizing behaviours that demonstrated favourable results include rule-breaking, attention and aggression. The findings also indicate that up to 12 months after program participation, SNAP® children show favourable reductions in internalizing behaviours. Internalizing behaviours refer to children's actions that result in self-harm. Internalizing behaviours that demonstrated favourable change include anxiety, withdrawal and somatic disorders.
The results for the scales completed by the children's teachers indicate that after completing the SNAP® program, internalizing behaviours (including attention and withdrawal) showed favourable reductions up to 12 months after program completion. However, teachers did not see reductions in children's rule-breaking, aggression, anxiety and somatic-related measures after their participation in the SNAP® program.
Preliminary results comparing the SNAP® program participants with a comparable group of children who did not receive the SNAP® program indicate that SNAP® participants were able to function more competently with regards to engagement in community activities, social skills and academics.
The evaluation team also wanted to determine if higher risk children were receiving more services than children with relatively lower risk levels. The findings suggest that higher risk children were more likely to receive additional services in two areas: 1) Individual befriending (i.e., pairing the SNAP® participant with other children to increase pro-social skills); and, 2) additional parent counselling. This showed favourable results as children who have more behavioural-related challenges require more services to address these problem areas.
The research findings suggest that, given the reductions in externalizing and internalizing behaviours, children who participate in the SNAP® program have a decreased likelihood of future contact with police and the criminal justice system.
This study demonstrates that various factors contribute to the SNAP® program's ability to generate changes in rule-breaking, aggression, conduct disorders, attention problems, anxiety, depression, and pro-social behaviours. The model developers (at the Child Development Institute) suggest that better results could be achieved if future programs are implemented in environments, such as a clinic setting, with specialists trained to diagnose, treat and interpret changes in children's problematic behaviours. The NCPC sites are not operating in a clinic-type environment that offers the support of a clinical supervisor. The benefits of implementing the SNAP® model with a clinical supervisor include:
- Enhanced skills in the screening of children with the appropriate level of conduct disorder problems;
- Increased ability to assist in treatment planning that considers the level of risk and need of each participant;
- Increased likelihood of having existing relationships with treatment services that have expertise in diagnosing and treating psychological problems such as depression and trauma; and,
- Enhanced possibility for the program to continue providing similar services beyond the cessation of funding given the existing relationships with stakeholders who contribute to the provision of services to SNAP® participants.
SNAP® projects that are not being implemented with the recommended specialists within a clinical setting should receive enhanced training to increase the likelihood of producing expected behavioural change typically demonstrated by the SNAP® model.
Implementing this evaluation research study heightens awareness about the importance of the project recipient's prior experience implementing an intervention similar to the SNAP® program. All of the NCPC-funded projects had some prior professional experience working with families or youth but had never specifically implemented the SNAP® model. The literature indicates that it takes approximately 2 to 4 years to effectively implement a program that has demonstrated desirable changes in participants, yet the NCPC-funded sites had a relatively short period of 6 months to learn and implement the SNAP® model. Projects that have not previously implemented the SNAP® program should request additional consultation and training in advance with the model developer.
The typical trend in the research of SNAP® demonstrates that there are different perceptions by parents and teachers regarding changes in externalizing and internalizing behaviours. In general, parents usually perceive more favourable gains than teachers. Researchers note that teachers' assessments of the children usually demonstrate expected behavioural change at the 6-month post-program data collection stage and not immediately after the program. One explanation is that teachers may not be as sensitive as parents to changes in children's behaviours. NCPC staff also noted that children often had more than two teachers during the program period, making it difficult to achieve continuity in the assessment process. Project staff should delay decision-making based on the teacher's scores up to at least 6 months post program.
These insights suggest that future implementation of the SNAP® model should consider the operating environment of the program (i.e., staffing of a clinical supervisor), the program's prior experience implementing children's mental health programs with a cognitive behavioural orientation and/or evidence-based models and the continuity of the teachers' assessments.
SNAP® multisite interim impact evaluation report, Astwood Strategy Corporation, NCPC, Public Safety Canada; SNAP® Evaluation Summary, NCPC, Donna Smith-Moncrieffe.
For further information contact:
National Crime Prevention Centre
Public Safety Canada
269 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0P8
Phone: (613) 957-6362
Fax: (613) 941-9013
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