Jul 19, 2007



The SAFEChildren program is a family-based preventive
intervention with support for the child entering the first grade that seeks to
address and negate risk factors in low-income inner city neighborhoods.
The intervention consists of weekly meetings which are designed to help
increase parenting knowledge, family cohesion, and children’s social
competence, academic achievement, and positive attitudes toward school. A
randomized evaluation of families by classroom was conducted in inner city Chicago neighborhoods
found that the program was effective in increasing children’s reading ability
and retaining parent involvement in the school over time. Additionally,
for children who were high-risk for behavior problems or who came from
high-risk families, the program was effective in reducing problem behaviors
such as aggression and hyperactivity as well as increasing child leadership and
parental involvement in the child’s education.


Target population: Inner city first
graders who live in high-risk situations or who are at risk for developing
behavior problems. The study defined “risk” at the neighborhood level,
rather than the individual level.

The SAFEChildren program consists
of two components; multiple-family group sessions and a reading tutoring
program. The group sessions focus on parenting skills, family
relationships, managing family challenges, engaging parents in their child’s
education, and managing neighborhood problems. The sessions are also
designed to give parents a peer support network with other parents. These
sessions occurred weekly for a series of 22 weeks. Children attended
twice weekly tutoring sessions each of which lasted for 30 minutes.


Tolan, P., Gorman-Smith, D., & Henry, D. (2004).Supporting families in a high-risk setting: Proximal effects
of the SAFEChildren preventive intervention.
Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72(5), 855-869.

Evaluated population: 424 families with
children entering first grade recruited from high-risk, inner-city
neighborhoods of Chicago.
42.5% of the sample were African-American and 57.5%
were Latino. 59% of families had a family income below $20,000, and 44%
of parents did not graduate from high school. 401 (95%) families
completed all 5 assessment points.

Approach:The sample included 5 inner city Chicago schools which had
40% or more of students living below the poverty level, crime rate higher than
the cities average, and a concentration of social problems. The
intervention employs a developmental/ecological perspective. Parents and
children completed a baseline assessment and then families were randomly
assigned on a classroom level to the intervention or control group.
Pre-test data were collected from parents and children when the children were
at the end of kindergarten and at the beginning of first grade. Post-test
data were collected from parents and children at the end of first grade and at
a 6-month follow-up period. Data were collected on child school
functioning, child behaviors, child social competence, and parenting and family
relationships. For the purpose of subgroup analysis, families were given
the designation of high-risk if they scored significantly lower than the
average on measures of family relationships or parenting practices; 23.5% of
families were classified as high-risk according to this procedure. Additionally,
20% of children were classified as high-risk for negative behaviors based on a
measure of aggression, hyperactivity, and concentration.

Results:Children in the intervention condition had a
greater increase in reading level than children in the control condition.
The intervention had no impact on children’s attitudes towards school or
teachers; levels of aggression, hyperactivity, concentration, social skills,
leadership, or adaptability; parental monitoring or discipline; family
cohesion, beliefs, or structure; or teacher- or parent-rated involvement.

In subgroup analyses of high-risk families, there no impacts
of the intervention on measures of child school functioning, social competence,
hyperactivity, leadership, or adaptability. Within high-risk families,
children in the intervention condition showed greater declines in aggression
than their counterparts in the control condition. High-risk families in
the intervention condition also had greater improvement in parental monitoring
than their counterparts in the control condition.

For the subgroup of children who were categorized as
high-risk, children in the intervention condition had greater declines in
aggression and hyperactivity and slightly larger improvements in leadership
skills than their counterparts in the control condition. Parents of
high-risk children who were assigned to the intervention condition had greater
improvements in self-rated involvement in their child’s education than their
counterparts in the control condition. There were no impacts of treatment
for high-risk children with respect to their levels of school functioning,
concentration, social skills, and adaptability, parental monitoring, parental
discipline, family cohesion, family beliefs, family structure, or teacher-rated
parent involvement in child’s education.




Tolan, P., Gorman-Smith, D., & Henry, D. (2004). Supporting families in a high-risk setting: Proximal effects of the
SAFEChildren preventive intervention. Journal
of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72
(5), 855-869.

Program also discussed in the following Child Trends publication(s):

[Reference of either American Teens (KF) or Clark documents that discuss program; these will be
linked to the actual docs online]

Program categorized in this guide according to the

Evaluated participant ages: 5-6 / Program age ranges in
the Guide: middle childhood

Program components:
mentoring/tutoring; parent or family component; school-based

Measured outcomes: education and cognitive development;
social and emotional health and development; behavioral problems

Children, Elementary School, Middle Childhood (6-11), High-Risk, Urban,
Behavioral Problems, Aggression, Tutoring, School-Based, Academic, Reading, Parent or Family
Component, Education, Cognitive Development, Social and Emotional Health and
Development, Mental Health, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino.

Program information last 7/19/07