Yo! That's Phat! - Street Smart Truancy Program Gets Kids Back in School

Reduce substance abuse and violence by identifying and intervening with at-risk truant youth

The Boston Police Department (BPD) developed a model truancy intervention program for middle and high school students in Boston and documented the program's development. The project was an extension of the Boston Strategy to Prevent Youth Violence—a major youth initiative developed in the 1990s by a coalition of the police, community and youth workers, local clergy, and educators.

Under this grant, the BPD subcontracted with the Boston YMCA to develop and implement a truancy project to prevent future youth involvement with crime. Mediawrights, a Boston communications firm, was subcontracted to document the development process and handle other communications functions.

Key Results: The program created by the Boston YMCA—called PHAT (Promoting Higher Attendance Team)—employed a case management team to work alongside the police to identify truant youth and connect them with counselors and other community services they needed. Among the program's accomplishments:

  • PHAT created a database of approximately 500 truant Boston youth and developed 145 active cases. PHAT team members screened these youth for substance abuse and assessed their need for substance abuse and other services, monitored school attendance, and offered career development workshops. Of the students who accepted services, half returned to school or were placed in alternative education programs.
  • PHAT caseworkers identified the leading causes for truancy through interviews with students and their parents or guardians. Reasons included lack of interest in school; pregnancy, illness, or job conflict; and hanging around with "bad influences."

An article and an editorial on the project appeared in the Boston Globe. With the end of the grant, PHAT did not continue, but parts of the program have been incorporated into other ongoing community coalitions and school initiatives.