Illinois Department of Human Services
Bureau of Youth Intervention Services

5.0 - Core Services

Revised Date: July 2013

Teen REACH provides the following prevention-focused core services:

  • Improving educational performance
  • Life Skills education
  • Parental involvement
  • Recreation, sports, and cultural and artistic activities
  • Positive adult mentors
  • Service Learning

5.1. Use of Evidence Based Program Models and Curricula

Revised Date: July 2013

"Best practice" or "promising practice" programming models should be utilized if these models meet community needs and can be implemented. If adaptations are required to meet the unique needs of the community, it should be noted that any modifications to established program models may reduce the likelihood of achieving the predicted outcomes.

According to Western Region Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies (Western CAPT) three categories that best describe the effectiveness of program models, curricula, and strategies that have emerged in the field of prevention programs for youth are:

  • Best Practices: Those strategies and programs deemed research-based by scientists and researchers at the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP), National Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP); National Center for the Advancement of Prevention (NCAP); and/or the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). Substantial research and evaluation have shown these strategies and programs to be effective at preventing and/or delaying substance abuse and/or other risky behaviors.
  • Promising Practices: For these programs and strategies, some quantitative data show positive outcomes in delaying substance abuse and/or other risky behaviors over a period of time. These studies, however, do not provide sufficient data to support generalized outcomes or program replication.
  • Unproven Practices: Programs or strategies showing little quantitative data or mostly anecdotal data. These programs and strategies have not been formally replicated.

Teen REACH funds may be used to purchase training materials and attend special training sessions for the use of evidence-based program models at the Best and Promising Practices levels.

Teen REACH providers can consult several web sites for best practices in prevention (see Appendices & Forms). These sites give information on optimal conditions for program delivery, costs, and training required for implementation. Where the websites are not listed, the keywords for the internet are listed in the Best Practices Column of the specific core service.


5.2. Academic Assistance

Revised Date: July 2013

GOAL: Improve academic performance.

Program Activities

  • Homework Help: At minimum, each Teen REACH program site is responsible for making time and resources available for children and adolescents to receive homework assistance. Volunteers may assist in this component.
  • Content-based tutoring: Individual tutoring for small groups of 2-3 children and youth experiencing difficulty in specific content areas such as math, reading, social studies, foreign language, science, etc. may be initiated through this component.
  • Skill-based tutoring: One-to-one instruction in basic skills in math and reading. These skills are taught as a direct lesson and not embedded in the daily course work of language arts or social studies. Skill-based tutorials can be implemented through computers, or with tutors who are generally teachers or teacher-aides.
  • Futuring: Allows the participants to develop a future plan for their education and training. Activities must include vocational explorations through job shadowing, mentorships, internships, volunteering, college visitation, and other avenues. Vocational evaluations, interest surveys and other assessments can also be used.

Best or Promising Practices

  • Alpha Smarts
  • Destinations 2.0
  • Hooked on Phonics
  • Read and Write Now
  • Help a Child to Read
  • Math Blasters
  • The Princeton Review
  • Leap Into Literacy
  • Lego Engineering Academy
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Voyager Expanded Learning Program
  • Effective Math Tutoring Strategies

Reporting/Documentation/Tools

Copies of report cards, attendance, and suspensions.

  • For Futuring: Vocational assessments; questionnaires; education and training; vocational explorations; mentoring; volunteer meetings.

5.3. Life Skills Education

Revised Date: July 2013

GOAL: Adopt positive decision-making skills that discourage harmful risk-taking behavior.

Program Activities

Program activities addressing the following topics are required during the course of the program year:

  • Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs: allows participants to increase knowledge of the dangers of substance use and abuse, develop skills for avoiding pressure to use substances, and to practice those skills.
  • General and Reproductive Health: prepares participants to understand how their body works, how to take care of themselves through good nutrition, exercise, hygiene, and basic first aid. For adolescents, addresses the physical changes of adolescence, abstinence and/or safe sex and contraception. For all children and youth, mental health and well-being need to be addressed: identifying emotions, anger management, depression and suicide. Activities must allow participants to increase knowledge, develop skills, and practice those skills within the program.
  • Violence Prevention: prepares the participants to identify and prevent interpersonal violence including family violence, sexual assault, youth violence, gang and gun violence, as well as hate crimes. Topics must include: conflict resolution, peer to peer and female-male relationships, cultural diversity, and community safety.

Best or Promising Practices

  • Life Skills Training Program (Botvin)
  • Project Northland
  • I CAN Problem Solve
  • Preparing for the Drug Free Years
  • Project Alert
  • Postponing Sexual Involvement (PSI)
  • Reducing the Risk
  • Behavioral Skill Training (HIV)
  • Sex Can Wait
  • Smart Girls
  • Teen Talks
  • Good Behavior Game
  • Pathways: A Boy's Town Training Program
  • Youth Peace
  • Sister Net
  • Second Step
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Self-Worth
  • Peer Relationships
  • Communication Skills
  • Youth Helping Youth Succeed
  • A Peer Mentor Curriculum For Drug and Violence Prevention
  • Project Star/Midwestern Prevention Project
  • Play for Peace
  • Peace Builders
  • Project Trust
  • Be Proud! Be Responsible!
  • G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education and Training)
  • Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (RCCP)
  • CASASTART (Striving Together to Achieve Rewarding Tomorrows)
  • Get Real About AIDS
  1. Peer Influence
    • Peer influence programs are considered to be part of Life Skills. Peer influence programs encompass peer educator, mediator, activist, or leadership programs. Peer influence programs are topic oriented: prevention education about substances, STDs, pregnancy, violence or community organizing. Program curricula/materials used must be evidence-based. Peer influence participants must receive a tangible benefit from their involvement: specific skills, knowledge, sense of group, and stipends or incentives (if the Spending Plan allows). Peer influence program participants count as part of the program's participant numbers, and as part of Life Skills.

Reporting/Documentation/Tools

Calendar of topics for life skills; scored pre-post test, as indicated by the program models; group logs and sign-in sheets.

  • For Peer Influence: Job descriptions for mentors which include work expectations and commitment, sign-in and sign-out sheets, satisfaction surveys from the participants.

5.4. Parental Involvement

Revised Date: July 2013

GOAL: Provide opportunities for parents and guardians to strengthen communication and community involvement.

Program Activities

  • Parent Support Groups
  • Parent Education
  • Parent Advisory Committees
  • Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Groups
  • Regularly Scheduled Family Events
  • Seasonal Celebrations
  • Parent Orientation Nights
  • Regular Newsletters
  • Monthly Calendar of Events

Best or Promising Practices

  • Ages 6-10: Preparing for the Drug Free Years
  • Strengthening Families Program
  • Families and School Together (FAST)
  • Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Youth 10-14
  • Ages 0-18: NICASA Parent Project
  • Effective Black Parenting Ages 2-12
  • Strengthening Multi-Ethnic Families and Communities Ages 3-18
  • Families Who Care
  • Creating Lasting Connections

Reporting/Documentation/Tools

Calendar of topics for parents; scored pre-post test, as indicated by the program models; group logs and sign-in sheets.


5.5. Positive Adult Mentors

Revised Date: July 2013

GOAL: Provide opportunities for improving social interaction and building skills through mentoring relationships.

Program Activities

Positive adult mentors provide opportunities for participants to develop and maintain positive, sustained relationships with adults through mentoring and other programs that emphasize one-on-one interactions.

Best or Promising Practices

  • "Understanding Mentoring Relationships" by Search Institute
  • Across Ages
  • "Mentoring Works!" by the National Mentoring Partnership

Reporting/Documentation/Tools

Annual participant and parent surveys


5.6. Sports, Recreation, Cultural & Artistic Activities

Revised Date: July 2013

GOAL: Provide opportunities for learning, building, and demonstrating positive social skills through sports and recreation.

Program Activities

  • Team sports
  • Physical fitness programs that include goal setting, nutrition information, and skill building
  • Individual sports that promote concentration; stamina, strength, and skill building
  • Interest clubs; such as arts, crafts, photography, cooking, etc.
  • Cultural groups such as folkloric dance; cultural activities such as field trips to museums

Best or Promising Practices

  • "Project First Choice" by the Illinois National Guard
  • President's Council on Physical Fitness
  • "New Games" 

Reporting/Documentation/Tools

Team rosters, sign-in sheets, group attendance logs, group or team calendar, pre and post tests, and products.


5.7. Service Learning

Revised Date: July 2013

GOAL: Provide opportunities to connect classroom lessons with meaningful service to the community.

Research indicates that when children, teens, and adults have an investment in their communities, they are more likely to stay, care for the environment, and be less tolerant toward crime and vandalism. Volunteering in the community is important for children and teens. It is essential for their development that such services offer more than a one-time event or activity. Service learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.

Service learning combines service objectives with learning objectives with the intent that the activity changes both the recipient and the provider of the service. This is accomplished by combining service tasks with structured opportunities that link the task to self-reflection, self-discovery, and the acquisition and comprehension of values, skills, and knowledge content.

Service learning can be defined through the following criteria set by AmeriCorps and the National and Community Service Act of 1990:

  • Active Participation: for younger children, projects that have quick, tangible results and physical action. For older youth, activities that promote relationships with those they are serving and allow for active roles in the planning, researching, and implementation of the project.
  • Meeting Real Community Needs: Partnerships such as adopting a program or a cause.
  • Fostering Civic Responsibility: Projects that enable children and teens to see their contributions to the common good in their community. Fosters a sense of caring for others (as adapted from the National and Community Service Act of 1990).
  • Integration of Educational Objectives: Service Learning projects are integrated into the educational components of the participant's program. Extends learning beyond the classroom and into the community.
  • Structured Reflection: A structured time set aside to discuss the project, its progress, its success, and the lessons learned from the experience.

For example: if youth collect trash out of an urban streambed, they are providing a service to the community as volunteers; a service that is highly valued and important. When youth collect trash from an urban streambed, then analyze what they found and possible sources so they can share the results with residents of the neighborhood along with suggestions for reducing pollution, they are engaging in service-learning. In the service-learning example, the youth are providing an important service to the community AND, at the same time, learning about water quality and laboratory analysis, developing an understanding of pollution issues, learning to interpret science issues to the public, and practicing communications skills by speaking to residents. They may also reflect on their personal and career interests in science, the environment, public policy or other related areas. Thus, we see that service-learning combines SERVICE with LEARNING in intentional ways.

Service learning is not:

  • An episodic volunteer program
  • An add-on to an existing school or college curriculum
  • Logging a set number of community service hours in order to graduate
  • Compensatory service assigned as a form of punishment by the courts or by school administrators
  • Only for high school or college students
  • One-sided: benefiting only students or only the community

Youth participating in Teen REACH programs must be given the opportunity to participate in a minimum of one service learning activity per fiscal year. Information and resources for service learning opportunities can be found on the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse website at http://www.servicelearning.org.


Links & Resources

Program administration and reporting forms, individual file forms, and general program information and resources, are available by calling the Bureau of Youth Intervention Services, Teen REACH at (217) 557-2109 and/or on the DHS Website at www.dhs.state.il.us.