In 1984, Fresno County, California, officials recognized a serious increase in juvenile delinquency and teen pregnancy. In response, they formed an interagency task force of state, county, business, and university officials to generate ideas of how to relieve this predicament. The task force concluded that the common thread connecting these youth-related problems was school failure. Further, they determined that the risk factors are often reflected in the way a child is presented at school and that these factors may be identified as early as kindergarten.
Their solution to this problem was K-SIX, an early intervention partnership between diverse governmental agencies that locates, identifies, and provides support to both parents and children. As mandated by the task force report, K-SIX identified the primary areas of required intervention: stable home environment, maximum parental involvement in the child's schooling, mastery of basic skills (reading, language and math), and regular attendance.
The innovation of the program lies in the individual attention to each child's situation. Once a high-risk child is identified, an exhaustive in-home assessment is conducted to identify problem areas. This assessment forms the basis of a care plan whose objectives are time-limited and measurable while clearly specifying the roles of the participants--all agreed upon by case-manager, parent(s) and child. Aspects of this plan include many facets: community and family advocacy, tutoring, intensive counseling, parent workshops, field trips, and so on.
K-SIX is a program focused on the individual, and yet, due to its success, its impact can actually be measured in the aggregate. Since its inception in 1984, there has been a 70 percent reduction in behavior referrals of the program's children. Unexcused absences have also diminished by 40 percent. Of the children in the program (in 1990), 60 are now in high school with no pregnancies or dropouts reported. Its success rate can also be seen in its expansion, beginning with two schools in 1984, the program has since expanded at a rate of nearly two schools per year, with a total of 9 in 1990. Since 1985, over 11,000 children have received some type of K-SIX intervention. At the individual level, parents also relate a positive secondary impact on the siblings of children involved in the program.
K-SIX works through a redistribution of resources; it is not a program created from scratch. The case manager could be a social worker, mental health specialist, juvenile probation officer, or school official. Each case manager brings his or her own expertise to the weekly regional meetings and each learns from the other's experience, resulting in a synergy that strengthens the program as a whole.
Since the K-SIX program was built on human resources that already existed in Fresno, resources that most school districts already have in place, transferability is likely. Replication would require the innovative collaboration and ability to adapt that characterizes K-SIX. Indeed, Fresno has prioritized its children with K-SIX and created a program of individual intervention that creates hope for the future.