California Counties are focused on preventing problems and intervening in issues before they become more serious. All during the month of October, CSAC is profiling California County programs that typify the concept of Prevention and Early Intervention. We are writing blogs, and presenting videos that show how some Counties are putting the concept of Prevention and Early Intervention to work. We were inspired in this effort by Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, who chose Prevention and Early Intervention as the theme for his term as CSAC President.

It’s pretty well documented that some kids turn to street gangs to fill holes in their lives. Maybe one or both parents are absent. Maybe there’s not enough money to buy food or keep the utilities on at home. Maybe there’s not a home to begin with. Maybe some young people turn to gangs because they don’t know there’s another way, and you can’t blame them for making a bad choice when they think it’s the only choice they have. In Orange County, the Gang Reduction and Intervention Partnership (GRIP) is offering kids a better choice.

The program was started by the Orange County District Attorney, who knew they needed to take a comprehensive approach to keeping kids out of street gangs. Law Enforcement can only do so much. But if you bring in schools, non-profits, faith-based groups and other agencies, you can start to fill the holes in a young person’s life before he or she turns to a gang.

That’s why the GRIP program starts in the grammar schools. The teachers and administrators help identify students who are at risk — the ones who need clothes, a bed, counseling or whose family needs help signing up for CalFresh or other services. In the past, there wasn’t much the school or the teachers could do for a kid with that kind of need. But now the GRIP partnership finds a way to meet their needs and keep him or her in school.

And along the way, they set some expectations for the kid and the family. The kid has to be in school – and on time. They have to do their work in school and at home. If they do well, there are rewards, like a trip to see an Anaheim Angels game. But the GRIP program is more than just rewarding a kid for doing well. There is heart in this program.

You can see it in their faces and hear it in their voices. And I’m not just talking about the kids. I’m talking about the cops, sheriff’s deputies, probation officers, teachers and administrators who are on the front lines. They have ALWAYS cared about the kids they encounter. GRIP gives them the resources to put their caring into action.

When the Principal at school knows a student’s family is struggling, GRIP provides an easy way to refer them to social services and non-profits that can help. When a cop or probation officer has to arrest someone who leaves children behind, GRIP can provide mentors so they have a positive role model to fill the gap. And usually, all it takes is a call from the authorities to convince a family how important it is to keep their kids in school.

GRIP is working in Orange County—and provides more evidence that the concept of Prevention and Early Intervention is working in California Counties.

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Originally posted at CSAC.