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Youth Violence and the The Collaborative Violence Prevention Initiative

Youth violence is defined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), as the intended use of physical force or power to threaten or harm others by young people ages 10-24.  It typically involves young people often hurting peers who are unrelated to them and who they may or may not know well.  Youth violence can take different forms.  Examples include fighting, bullying, threats with weapons, and gang related violence.  A young person can be involved with youth violence as a victim, offender, or witness.

Youth violence starts early.  Physical aggression can be common among toddlers, but as children learn alternatives to using violence to solve problems and express emotions before starting school some children may remain aggressive and become more violent.  Some early childhood risk factors include impulsive behaviors, poor emotional control, and lack of social and problem-solving skills.  Many of the risk factors are the result of experiencing chronic stress, which can alter and/or harm brain development of children and youth.

Youth violence is an adverse childhood experience (ACE) and is connected to other forms of violence, including child abuse and neglect, teen dating violence, sexual violence, self-harm, and suicide.  Different forms of violence have common risk and protective factors, and victims of one form of violence are more likely to experience other forms of violence.

The Respective Solutions Group (RSG) in association with Adams County partners including school districts, community collaboratives, county agencies, and law enforcement agencies, is addressing, in a collaborative community violence prevention approach, youth social aggression.  Adams County youth indicate through the 2017 Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS), high levels of cyber bullying and online aggression at home and in the community.  The result is negative interpersonal interactions at school, i.e. fighting and bullying, social isolation, and high levels of depression.  This is a problem manifesting across all domains (environments), with the high likelihood for devastating results in our schools where youth interact daily.  Youth social aggression results in detrimental externalizing and internalizing feelings, beliefs, and behaviors.

The Collaborative Violence Prevention Initiative (CVP) that is working to help youth achieve their full potential within safe and healthy communities.  The initiative is focused on increasing public awareness, providing parent education, and to assist community leadership to promote the use of evidence-based youth violence prevention strategies ultimately resulting in a reduction in youth violence.  The first goal of the initiative is to lessen the impact of social media aggression on the children and youth of Adams County observing pre and post PAYS data.  There are several other benchmarks for the initiative over two years involving positive messaging, parent and youth education, and community partnership development.

Research tells us that reducing online aggression is an effective approach for keeping our schools safe, instilling resilience in youth and supporting positive youth development.  As our technology and methods of communication evolve, more barriers to effective interpersonal interaction are evident.  For youth, during formative social development, this increasing lack of face to face, one to one communication as a primary method that defines meaning, interpersonal bonding, and social acuity have driven the crisis in our schools with violence in the form of bullying, harassment, physical altercations, and school shootings.  Efforts have shown that when youth are supported through a multi-dimensional, community/home/school approach, youth violence can be prevented.

During the past year, the CVP Initiative began addressing social media aggression through a positive messaging campaign that was facilitated through the use of several forms of media.  The first included  Public Service Announcements focusing on Parental Controls, and appropriate use of social media directed at students.  The PSAs have been aired on Froggy 107.7, Spotify, and Pandora.  Additional PSAs will be aired throughout the winter and spring months.

The Youth Coalition, under the leadership of Nathan Sterner, has been a great partner in getting the word out to students as they created, recorded, and aired positive messaging PSAs using the same media outlets.  The members of the Youth Coalition have been very helpful in framing the issues surrounding the inappropriate use of social media and how it is viewed through the eyes of teens and young adults.

Parents are an integral part of the education and supervision of children and the appropriate use of social media.  Several training videos were developed for parents that addresses On-Line Safety and the use of Parental Controls.  The On-Line Safety videos can be found at the RSG and CFY websites under the “On-Line Safety” tab.   The On-Line Safety video also contains a survey that parents can complete that will help us understand what parents know about their children’s use of social media.

A billboard campaign was supplemental to the PSAs and on-line initiatives that reinforced appropriate social media use and the use of Parental Controls and where parents could find the educational videos.  The billboards were located throughout the County and urges parents to “Be Involved and Stay Involved”.

It is essential that strategic partnerships are developed to support and grow the youth violence prevention initiative.  Strategic partners include those areas of the community that have the most contact and influence with children and youth.  Relationships with schools, early childhood care professionals, law enforcement, county agencies personnel, mental health practitioners, medical health practitioners, parents, and government officials are only some of the partners that are necessary to understand the issues and identify strategies/interventions that are based on research and address local cultural characteristics.

To that end, the CVP Initiative will begin to interview the various community partners and create a Podcast library that will be specific to Adams County.  We are very excited about improving the awareness of the various resources and contacts within the Adams County community.  The interviews have begun, so look for the debut of the RSG Podcasts in the near future.

The CVP Initiative and associated subcommittee adopted the CDC’s Prevention Model that contains six strategies to prevent youth violence.

  • Promote family environments that support healthy development

  • Provide quality education early in life

  • Strengthen youth skills

  • Connect youth to caring adults and activities

  • Create protective community environments

  • Intervene to lessen harms and prevent future risk

Using these strategies to help identify and categorize resources and programs within the community that serve children, youth, and families that address risk and protective factors facilitates an understanding of how the community systems respond to the needs of the residence of Adams County.  This non-scientific review suggests there are significant strengths within the county that focus on providing elements that are proactive as well as those that are reflexive based on needs.  There are also weaknesses within and among the systems that are identified as inadequate or non-existent.


A very exciting initiative new to the Gettysburg Area School District that has an early childhood focus is called First 10.  This initiative is an example of how the CVP initiative partners with a variety of community resources like school districts, preschool programs, and the United Way creating more opportunities for parents and their children.  The CVP initiative has been involved with the planning and development of First 10 and is currently poised to facilitate educational opportunities for the community about the various activities for children ages 0 through 3 and more focused transition activities for children ready to attend Kindergarten.  School district staff including administration, school counselors and teachers have been instrumental in creating this opportunity and supporting continued development. 


One very interesting and hopeful opportunity that is associated with First 10 and local preschools is the implementation of the Incredible Years program within the various local preschool program.  This Social, Emotional, and Learning model will provide foundational information and practice for students who will ultimately enter the GASD K programs/-.  What is significant about this is that the GASD uses the Incredible Years Program in the Kindergarten and First Grade classrooms.  Beth Shipley (CFY) is the driving force behind this addition and will be heading the training for the educators in the near future.


The CVP initiative is always looking for partners to facilitate positive opportunities for the families and students of Adams County.  If you would like to discuss some opportunities or want to get involved in our Podcasts, please contact John Lewis at

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