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Program Profile: Taking Charge

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on November 19, 2013

Program Summary

A group-based curriculum designed to help pregnant and parenting female students stay in school. The program is rated Promising. At the 6-week follow-up, the program had a statistically significant impact on the treatment group compared to the control group in attendance, grade averages, coping behavior and problem solving skills.

Program Description

Program Goals
The Taking Charge curriculum is a solution-focused, cognitive-behavioral brief group intervention designed to help pregnant and parenting female students stay in school. School achievement and subsequent graduation are believed to be the first steps for adolescent mothers toward establishing lives of self-sufficiency. The primary goals of Taking Charge are school achievement through increased attendance, improved grades, and positive life outcomes. The program curriculum was designed within a developmental and strengths-based framework, so school professionals can intervene with young mothers and enhance their social problem-solving skills and active coping strategies that will enable them to manage the challenges they encounter across four critical life domains: education, personal relationships, parenting, and employment/career.

Target Population
The school-based curriculum was developed because of the extraordinarily high dropout rate of pregnant and parenting Mexican American female students in high school.

Program Components
The curriculum includes a group meeting once a week for 8 weeks, with each session lasting 60 to 90 minutes. The group session format has three segments. The first segment involves a group discussion led by the group leader on various topics, including participants’ personal experiences with tasks completed between sessions. During the second segment, participants work through the five-step problem-solving process in which they identify their goals and carry out specific tasks toward each goal before the next group meeting. The third segment includes any questions or concerns participants may have for the group leader, and a summarization of the session.

Incentives are built into the curriculum to motivate participants to fully engage in the group activities and individual tasks. The primary incentive is a point system. Compliments and positive feedback from group leaders and members are also used. Points can be earned each week by attending school, attending group sessions, completing tasks, and finishing school homework. Points are accrued throughout the 8 weeks of group sessions toward an award in the end. Awards vary according to available resources but may include gift certificates, small gifts such as movie passes, and participation in an off-campus field trip.

Program Theory
The Taking Charge curriculum is based on seven major theoretical components:
  • Goal setting across four critical life domains
  • Developmental theory framework
  • Strengths-based, solution-focused brief therapy framework (Franklin, et al. 2012; Franklin, Kim, and Tripodi 2009; Kim and Franklin 2009)
  • Theory of stress and coping (Lazarus and Folkman 1984)
  • Bandura’s social learning theory (Bandura 1999)
  • Social problem-solving process (D’Zurilla and Nezu 1982)
  • Task-centered group model (Reid 1986)

The theoretical foundation provides the basis for many of the intervention activities, such as solution building, practicing and mastering skills, modeling, and incentive strategies.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Attendance
Harris and Franklin (2003) found the Taking Charge program had a moderate effect in increasing school attendance for program participants. The mean attendance rate for the treatment group increased from 0.83 before participating in the program to 0.86 six weeks after participating in the program, while the mean attendance rate for the control group decreased from 0.84 to 0.75 during that time. The difference in the attendance rate between the treatment group and control group at the 6-week follow-up was statistically significant.

Grade Averages
The intervention also had a moderate effect on the grade averages. The grade average for the treatment group increased from 77.84 to 79.59 (a low-B grade average), while the grade average for the control group decreased from 77.45 to 71.63 (a low-D grade average). The difference in grade averages between the treatment group and control group at posttest was statistically significant.

Coping Behavior
A significant difference was found between the treatment and control groups on measures of problem-focused coping behavior at the 6-week follow-up period. The average score on the coping subscales for the treatment group increased from 58.52 to 64.07, while the average score for the control group decreased from 58.35 to 56.62. The difference in coping behavior between the groups at the 6-week follow-up was statistically significant. 

Problem-Solving Skills
A significant difference was also found between the treatment and control groups on measures of rational social problem-solving skills at the 6-week follow-up period. The average score on the problem-solving subscale for the treatment group increased from 12.88 to 14.93, while the average score for the control group decreased slightly from 12.98 to 12.88. The difference in problem-solving skills between the groups at the 6-week follow-up was statistically significant.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
The evaluation of the Taking Charge program by Harris and Franklin (2003) was conducted in an urban school district on the U.S.–Mexico border, employing a randomized experimental design, with pretests, posttests, and a 30-day follow-up. Using a cluster sampling technique, five of the 12 high schools in the district were picked to participate in the study, selected by teenage parent program staff and special education administrators in the district. The selected schools were perceived as representative of the pregnant adolescent population in the district. Two of the five were the largest high schools in the district, two were moderate in size with relatively high enrollment of pregnant and parenting students, and the fifth was a dropout recovery high school. All female students in the schools who met either of the following criteria were invited to participate: (1) pregnant at the beginning of the study, with or without children, but had not yet entered the 8th month of pregnancy; or (2) were not pregnant at the beginning of the study, but were parenting one or more children of who they had custody.

After pretest, the students who agreed to participate in the study were randomly assigned to either the experimental or control group. The experimental group received eight sessions of group intervention along with regular case management services, while the control group received only regular case management services. Of the 86 young women who agreed to participate, 73 completed both the pretest and posttest assessments (experimental group=33; control group=40). The average age of the study participants was 17 and 96 percent self-identified as Mexican or Mexican American. Fifty-two of the female students had at least one child, and 17 were pregnant for the first time. Preliminary analysis revealed no significant differences between the groups.

The study concentrated on evaluating the impact of the curriculum on coping behaviors and social problem-solving skills that affect the four critical life domains (school achievement, parenting, personal relationships, and employment/career). The study used standardized measures, including the Rational Problem-Solving Subscale from the Social Problem-Solving Inventory—Revised (Short Form) and three subscales from the Adolescent Coping Orientation for Problem Experiences. Data was also collected from school records to determine students’ grades and attendance. School attendance was measured as a ratio variable representing the percent of days attended.
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Cost

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The Taking Charge treatment manual costs $30 (published by Oxford University Press). The incentives used in the program costs $200–300. Additional training is available from the program developers (please see the contact information under Training and TA Provider).
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Implementation Information

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The Taking Charge treatment manual is required to implement the program: Harris, Mary Beth, and Cynthia G. Franklin. 2007. Taking Charge: A Life Skills Group Curriculum for Adolescent Mothers. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Harris, Mary Beth, and Cynthia G. Franklin. 2003. “Effects of a Cognitive-Behavioral, School-Based, Group Intervention With Mexican American Pregnant and Parenting Adolescents.” Social Work Research 27(2):71–83.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Bandura, Albert. 1999. “Social Cognitive Theory of Personality.” In Daniel Cervone and Yuichi Shoda (eds.). The Coherence of Personality. New York, N.Y.: Guilford Press, 185–241.

D’Zurilla, Thomas J., and Arthur M. Nezu. 1982. “Social Problem–Solving in Adults.” In Philip C. Kendall (ed.). Advances in Cognitive-Behavioral Research and Therapy. New York, N.Y.: Academic Press, 202–69.

Franklin, Cynthia G., Terry Trepper, Wallace Gingerich, and Eric McCullum. 2012. Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: A Handbook of Evidence Based Practice. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press.

Franklin, Cynthia G., Johnny S. Kim, and Stephen Tripodi. 2009. “A Meta-Analysis of Published School Social Work Practice Studies 1980-2007.” Research on Social Work Practice 19:667–77.

Harris, Mary Beth, and Cynthia G. Franklin. 2009. “Helping Adolescent Mothers to Achieve in School: An Evaluation of the Taking Charge Group Intervention.” Children and Schools 31(1):27–34. (This study was reviewed but did not meet Crime Solutions' criteria for inclusion in the overall program rating.)

Harris, Mary Beth, and Cynthia G. Franklin. 2007. Taking Charge: A Life Skills Group Curriculum for Adolescent Mothers. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press.

Kim, Johnny S. and Cynthia G. Franklin. 2009. “Solution Focused Therapy in Schools: A Review of Outcome Literature.” Children and Youth Services Reviews 31(4):464–70.

Lazarus, Richard S., and Susan Folkman. 1984. Stress, Appraisal, and Coping. New York, N.Y.: Springer.

Reid, William James. 1986. “Tasked-Centered Social Work.” In Francis Joseph Turner (ed.). Social Work Treatment: Interlocking Theoretical Approaches (Third Edition). New York, N.Y.: Free Press, 614–40.
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Related Practices

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated practices that are related to this program:

Dropout Prevention Programs
School- or community-based programs targeting frequently absent students or students at risk of dropping out of school. These programs are aimed at increasing school engagement, school attachment, and the academic performance of students, with the main objective of increasing graduation rates. The practice is rated Effective for reducing rates of school dropouts, and rated Promising for improving test scores/grades, graduation rates, and attendance.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Education - Dropout
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Academic achievement/school performance
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Graduation
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Attendance/truancy
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Program Snapshot

Age: 14 - 19

Gender: Female

Race/Ethnicity: Hispanic

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): School

Program Type: Academic Skills Enhancement, Classroom Curricula, Cognitive Behavioral Treatment, Gender-Specific Programming

Targeted Population: Females

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide

Program Developer:
Cynthia G. Franklin
Stiernberg/Spencer Family Professor in Mental Health University of Texas at Austin, School of Social Work
One University Station D3500
Austin TX 78712
Phone: 512.471.0533
Fax: 512.471.9600
Email

Training and TA Provider:
Cynthia G. Franklin
Stiernberg/Spencer Family Professor in Mental Health University of Texas at Austin, School of Social Work
One University Station D3500
Austin TX 78712
Phone: 512.471.0533
Fax: 512.471.9600
Email