Lastly, we must communicate what we’ve learned in a way that influences public perception in a positive way of the value that these programs have for children and society as a whole. Spears pointed out that, in general, the public and the media have overly simplistic ideas of what programs are and what they do. Most of the dialogue floating in the public sphere is based on things that have gone wrong or on programs that don’t follow best practices. Due to this, there is little balance in what’s out there. Programs need to be transparent, accountable and show positive outcomes to children and families. These outcomes need to be linked to long-term results as well. To do this, more programs need to focus on, and more funders need to support, long-term outcome studies. These studies will give the empirical evidence to increase public confidence and increase funding.
Spears went on to add public confidence is affected by:
- Perception of competencies
- Questions of effectiveness
- Questions of openness and honesty
- Questions of quality spending
- Perception about power and the role of the government in people’s lives
How this Affects Funding
Agencies looking to start or maintain programs helping children, including mentoring, youth councils, peer courts, offender-victim reconciliation, and a myriad of juvenile justice programs can benefit from the ideas outlined by this panel. Focusing on collaborations with other professionals, organizations and community resources can help build public confidence and help secure funding. These collaborations, as well as, designing programs based in empirical evidence opens up a wider array of funding options. For example, funders supporting children’s programs that would benefit from law enforcement involvement exist through the OJJDP, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) and Juvenile Accountability Block Grants. A search on www.grants.gov displays a wide variety of funding, as well as, program ideas and collaborations.
Building better children’s programs requires cooperation between many different professional elements. It requires dedication and sound empirical evidence to back that “feeling” prevention works to eliminate a number of long-term risk factors. Having public trust and maintaining that trust are key to getting support and financial backing for these essential programs which change the lives of children and their families. An understanding of the elements needed to increase public confidence, such as those outlined in this Urban Institute forum, allow policy makers, practitioners and researchers to focus on high-quality programs that produce long-term results and yield a high return on investment.
Michelle Perin has been a freelance writer since 2000. Her credits include Law Enforcement Technology, Police, Law and Order, Police Times, Beyond the Badge, Michigan State Trooper, Michigan Snowmobiler Magazine and Chief of Police. She writes two columns a month for Officer.com. Michelle worked for the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department for almost eight years. In December 2010, she earned her Master’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Indiana State University. Currently, Michelle works as the Administrative Coordinator at Jasper Mountain a residential psychiatric facility for children. In her spare time, she enjoys being the fundraising coordinator for the Lane Area Ferret Shelter & Rescue, playing her bass, working on her young adult novel Desert Ice and raising her two sons in a small town in Oregon.