For parents, teachers, coaches and other adults, it isn’t always easy to know what issues kids face on daily basis and what decisions they must make to stay out of trouble.
Members of the Communities that Care Board in East Hampton may not have all the answers, but they hope to start figuring them out.
The board, a local chapter of a national movement, will administer the Communities that Care Youth Survey on the East End on April 16, which will question kids on “risk” or “protective” factors in their lives. The 45-minute survey will be filled out by every sixth, eighth, 10th, and 12th grader in East Hampton during school hours as part of a national effort to identify potential problems and develop programs to address them.
Communities that Care “is a mobilization process,” said Edna Steck, the human services director for East Hampton Town and a member of the group’s board.
“It’s getting people together from the community, representing all aspects of the community, to look at what we’re doing here, what we’re not doing here and what we could be doing for our kids,” Ms. Steck said.
The survey asks questions relating to drugs, alcohol, violence, emotional health and other issues, but also seeks to figure out what methods kids use to avoid problems. It is “based on the belief that every single community is unique and every single community has it’s own risk factors and protective factors” Ms. Steck said, and these issues decide “whether our youth turn to risky behavior or become healthy, contributing members of our society.”
“The real purpose of this survey is to identify what kids usually do to protect themselves,” said Springs School District Superintendent Tom Quinn, chairman of the local Communities that Care Board.
Mr. Quinn said that once the board has the results it will seek grants from a variety of sources for “family and community programs” that would “help bring everyone together.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, Communities that Care is a model created by two social scientists, J. David Hawkins and Richard F. Catalano, that is designed to empower communities to “guide their prevention efforts.”
The costs of implementing the survey are almost entirely paid for by the New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services. The East Hampton Health Care Foundation is assisting as well by paying to mail out forms to parents to give them the option of having their child not take the survey.
According to Ms. Steck, the idea to administer the survey here came from Audrey Gaines, the town’s director of youth services, who attended a conference last spring in which the Communities that Care project was presented.
Asked if she had any thoughts about what the survey’s results might reveal, Ms. Steck was reluctant to speculate.
“I think what we feel we need to do is go in with no preconceived notions,” she said.
In terms of addressing some of the issues the kids may describe, Ms. Steck said that solutions could involve the business community, like offering discounted tickets to movies to provide more entertainment for kids.
“Until we have the information we don’t really know what we need to do and who needs to do it,” Ms. Steck said.
Over the past few months, Ms. Steck, Mr. Quinn and other members of the Communities that Care Board have appeared at Montauk, East Hampton and Springs school board meetings to make power-point presentations on the project. At an East Hampton School Board meeting in February, Mr. Quinn said the company compiling the survey data, Bach Harrison, would group the results together across grade levels and school districts in town, because the Communities that Care Board sees any issue in any particular district or age group as a town-wide problem.
But Stephen Talmage, a member of the East Hampton School Board, questioned the value of lumping all the results of the survey together instead analyzing them separately for different areas of town. By not breaking down the information in the survey according to school district, Mr. Talmage said, administrators could be completely ignoring a specific source of problems.
“It could be that there is a cocaine problem in Montauk,” he said, offering a hypothetical situation. “You need to attack the problem at the source.”
Mr. Quinn said one of the goals of the survey administrators is to prevent finger-pointing at one district or another, and Ms. Steck said problems in any one hamlet have an impact on kids throughout the town.
“The survey is not going to pinpoint … It’s going to say yes, or no, that drugs are sometimes readily available. It’s not going to identify where or how they are available,” Ms. Steck said. “If that turns up as a major risk factor, then what we are going to be doing is looking at what we need to do as a community to reduce that risk.”