Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO)

Program Name

Youth Gang Prevention Services (YGPS) Program

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

IRCO's Youth Gang Prevention Services (YGPS) program serves at-risk Asian and Pacific Islander (API) youth in Multnomah County, Oregon, by helping them avoid gang involvement and violence. Local API youth have unique needs as children of recent refugees and immigrants.

Program Description

IRCO’s current Youth Gang Prevention Services (YGPS) program officially began in 2006; however, IRCO’s Asian Family Center has been working with gang-involved youth since the late 1980’s. YGPS targets Asian and Pacific Islander (API) youth, particularly Southeast Asian youth. Southeast Asians are now Oregon’s largest API subgroup, with some youth facing a risk of recruitment by local gangs. Many Southeast Asian adults arrived in Portland as refugees after 1975 and have experienced significant cultural, social and educational disruption due to war and personal trauma. As a result, their English speaking ability and educational attainment can be lower than the general population, with unemployment and poverty characterizing many local Southeast Asian families. Youth in such families risk gang recruitment along with social adjustment difficulties as the children of first-generation Americans. In addition, socio-cultural and linguistic differences, unfamiliarity with the nature of local educational, social service and judicial systems, and limited availability of culturally-specific services create barriers for parents in supporting their children’s development and finding assistance when needed. Widespread perception of API persons as the "model minority" also contributes to difficulty accessing services that might help prevent gang involvement. Knowledge of these issues led to the development of the YGPS program. The YGPS program is based on the START model (Striving Together to Achieve Rewarding Tomorrows) from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA). This model is a community-based, school-centered program designed to keep high-risk youth free of substance abuse and crime. It has been identified as a model program by many federal agencies including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. CASASTART is based on a positive youth development framework and uses intensive case management to provide services to counteract the various factors that make youth vulnerable to substance abuse and juvenile delinquency. For the YGPS program, the CASASTART model was adapted to fit the needs of Portland’s API families. The core components of the YGPS program are intensive case management, including up to daily contact with individual youth; family education, coaching and support; after-school and summer activities in healthy and supportive environments, frequently incorporating culturally-specific activities and approaches; academic support and pre-employment and job readiness assistance; connection to caring adults; partnerships with other local organizations and agencies, including juvenile justice and law enforcement entities; and provision of resources to facilitate client progress (e.g. learning resources such as books and calculators, tickets to cultural events). Youth and their families access many services via caseworker referral to external partners and other IRCO programs. Other IRCO programs to which clients are referred and with which YGPS efforts are integrated include IRCO’s culturally-specific API academic support services at local schools such as Successful Schools Transition and ASPIRE (After School Program for Immigrant and Refugee Education). In addition, IRCO’s Social and Support Services for Educational Success program provides a variety of academic and family support services. For a full list of IRCO’s Youth programs, visit their Web site. Referrals to the YGPS program are obtained from a number of sources, including public schools, local social service and law enforcement agencies, the local juvenile justice agency, churches and other religious institutions, and other community organizations. YGPS staff also conducts outreach to these entities on a regular basis to ensure that their staff is aware of the program and how youth and their families can access it. The YGPS program is based at IRCO’s Asian Family Center (AFC), a multicultural service center established by IRCO in 1994 to serve the API community in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area.

Resource Materials Used in Program

IRCO's Asian Family Center is currently developing a curriculum for API youth who have been identified as at risk of joining gangs. The program uses office and school space, office supplies and equipment, a van to transport youth to program activities, and varied resources to enable youth program participation and success (e.g. books and calculators, tickets to cultural events, bus passes).

Groups Served by Program

The YGPS program serves Asian and Pacific Islander youth up to the age of 25 in Multnomah County, Oregon, who are at risk of involvement in gang activity and violence. In the program’s first year of operation (2006-07), 100 youth clients and their families will be served.

Program Funding

Funding is provided by the Multnomah County Department of School and Community Partnerships and the City of Portland.

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

Program services are provided by two full-time and one half-time Asian Family Center staff case managers. Both are bilingual API persons with extensive experience in youth gang prevention/ intervention and other youth and family programming. The program is managed by IRCO’s Youth Services Unit Manager, a bilingual API person with more than 25 years experience managing culturally-specific programming. Like all staff, the case managers providing services under this program are selected in great part on the basis of their abilities to function in a context of cultural difference, communicate effectively across cultural boundaries and recognize and manage the implications that culture and language have for service delivery. These abilities are particularly important given the wide variety of API youth served by this program, which is reflective of the diversity of the API community in Multnomah County.

Program Evaluation

The YGPS program seeks to achieve the outcomes listed below. Evaluation will be overseen by IRCO’s Youth Services Unit Manager. 

  • Mental health: 100% of youth who exhibit mental health problems will be referred for mental health assessment;
  • School retention: 75% of youth will improve school attendance and 65% of youth will have no suspension or expulsion; 
  • Alcohol and drug use: 100% of youth who exhibit signs of alcohol and drug use will be referred for alcohol and drug assessment and will show reduction in alcohol and drug use; 
  • Employment: 60% of 16-18 year-old youth will participate in employment services and will maintain at least 90 days of employment and 80% of 11-15 year-old youth will complete life skills and/or pre-employment training; Criminal behavior: 85% of youth will not generate a new referral to the juvenile justice system and for those youth currently held in the juvenile justice system, 80% will not commit a new offense within six months of discharge; 
  • Pro-social skill-building: 100% of youth will demonstrate increased pro-social behavior; 
  • Connection to a caring adult: 90% of youth will be able to identify a caring adult who assists them in their development; and 
  • Family support: 90% of youth parents/caretakers will demonstrate improved communication strategies to reduce risky behavior in the youth they care for.

Program Outcomes

This program is in its first year of operation; therefore, the outcomes are not yet available.

Additional Comments

IRCO’s YGPS program is part of the Youth Gang Prevention Services Network of Multnomah County, which is funded by the county’s Department of School and Community Partnerships. The network includes five community-based agencies that each work with specific populations. The directors of the five agencies meet every other month, and the line staff meet monthly, to share ideas and resources which maximize existing services, to avoid the duplication of services, and to address gang activity across ethnic lines.

Program Contact

Adrian Galvez
(971) 271 – 6575

Program Dates

This program began July 1, 2006 and is still operating as of May 2007.