Second Chance is Arlington’s early intervention and education program for getting youth back on track for a healthy and productive life.
Youth are putting their futures at risk
Before they graduate from high school, 76% of Arlington teens will have tried alcohol at one time or another. Almost half will have used marijuana. These alarming facts come from the 2010 Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families.
Use of prohibited substances is a problem because teens who drink or use drugs are much more likely to have slipping or failing grades, unplanned and unprotected sex, accidents resulting in serious injury, and other high risk behaviors. The earlier teens start, the more likely they will experience addiction problems later in life. And a teen’s developing brain is highly vulnerable to the disruptive effects of alcohol and drugs — which can result in lifelong problems with important cognitive skills like attention, learning and memory.
Intervention and education are the key
Traditional punishment sends the behavior underground. Suspensions and court involvement leave well-meaning friends, coaches, teachers and parents without a positive alternative for helping students they worry about. The long-term consequences of many traditional forms of punishment keep some from finding interventions that can help.
Three-day program and booster session include mandatory parental involvement
Second Chance is a free, three-day early intervention education program available to teens in grades 6-12 whose parents/legal guardians are Arlington taxpayers. The curriculum is designed to help students review their behavior, relationships and knowledge, and to look for the links that led them to misuse substances. There is a three-hour required parent component and a “booster session” for both the teens and their parents/guardians six to eight weeks after the initial session. Students who successfully complete all three components may avoid suspension from school and court involvement for this offense.
- Middle and high school students, whose parents/legal guardians pay Arlington taxes, can be referred to the program by schools, police, the courts and/or their parents.
- To be eligible (i.e., to avoid criminal prosecution or school suspension) it must be the first time that a student has been caught using alcohol, marijuana, and certain other substances that do not require a felony charge.
- Students who have prior court involvement for a non-drug- or alcohol-related offense may participate in the program if they are caught for the first time using alcohol, marijuana or other illegal substances.
- 18-year-olds are eligible to attend the program if they are still enrolled in high school at the time of the offense.
- Learn more about the program here.
A community-wide effort
Second Chance is the result of widespread community support spearheaded by Partnerships for a Healthier Arlington. Program developers conducted focus groups, met with other jurisdictions, and engaged students, counselors, teachers and school officials, the judicial system, public health and public safety officials, the Commonwealth’s Attorney and, most importantly, parents.
A model for other communities
Many communities have tried to tackle this problem. The unique characteristics of this program make it the only one of its kind in the nation. The pilot phase of the program will include data collection and an evaluation that could result in Second Chance becoming a model for other communities seeking to address prohibited substance use among youth.
- The Arlington County Board, the Arlington School Board and private donors currently provide funding for Second Chance.
- The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (FAAR) (formerly the Century Council) provided partial support for the first two years of the program.
- Arlington’s READY Coalition provided funding for the development of the curriculum and some of the evaluation.
Second Chance partners
- Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families
- Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families Foundation
- Partnerships for a Healthier Arlington
- Arlington Public Schools
- Arlington County Police, Fire and Human Services Departments
- Arlington Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court
- Phoenix Houses of the Mid-Atlantic