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National Center on Secondary Education and Transition

Increasing Rates of School Completion
Moving From Policy and Research to Practice

A Manual for Policymakers, Administrators, and Educators

Part III: What Works in Dropout Prevention?

Sample Dropout Intervention Programs


Background: The support center for adolescent mothers (known as the Family Growth Center and the Program Archive on Sexuality, Health, and Adolescence [PASHA]) was created to address the needs of the growing number of adolescent mothers. With core ideas from an ecological model, the program sought to provide supports that would aid in the prevention of repeat pregnancies and dropouts. The Family Growth Center was funded by grants from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and foundations, businesses, and community organizations in Pittsburgh.

Intervention Description: The Family Growth Center was created to address the needs of adolescent mothers in the Pittsburgh area by using a family support center approach. The program was implemented in the hope that by providing social supports and parenting education to first-time, unmarried adolescent mothers, repeat pregnancies and school dropout would be prevented. Fundamental elements of the program include the provision of social and educational supports and parenting education. Four key components of the program include: establishing early contact with the mothers (prenatal and in the hospital), involving families of the adolescent mother, implementing parenting groups, and involving the community. These key features are implemented by a team of individuals who work with the mothers in various ways.

As the name of the model suggests, family is of vital importance in this program. Many of the interventions that are a part of the program involve not only the new mothers, but also their families (e.g., grandmothers, mothers, aunts, siblings). Young mothers are recruited by a prenatal counselor when they visit a hospital clinic for a prenatal visit or when they are in the hospital just after giving birth. Mothers recruited during the prenatal visits are followed through home visits by social workers. A perinatal coach also visits the mothers and their families to collect baseline information. During the home visits, the new mothers’ families are encouraged to ask questions and be involved in the process. While the mothers are in the newborn nursery, they received perinatal counseling that is meant to educate and enhance parents’ interaction skills with their newborns and as well as the newborns’ sensory abilities. After mothers go home from the hospital, they receive home visits from program social workers and are also offered services at the Family Growth Center. Bimonthly parenting classes are also offered, as are services for finding housing, schooling, day care, and health care. The Family Growth Center also offers short-term and emergency day care, recreational activities, and transportation services. The importance of establishing relationships with the mothers and families served is critical (and may occur over a period of months).

The community is involved in the program in a number of ways. The Family Growth Center director receives advice and guidance from several community groups, including a youth advisory board and a community advisory board made up of neighborhood members and community leaders. The goal is to offer integrated and comprehensive neighborhood-based and family-centered social support programming.

Participants & Setting: Urban adolescent mothers who live in low socioeconomic status (SES) neighborhoods of Pittsburgh were targeted participants for this program. Young mothers were recruited to the program from a prenatal clinic or newborn nursery at a local hospital. Participants are required to be first-time mothers who lived in certain areas identified (by zip code) as the high-risk neighborhoods served by the Family Growth Center. The Family Growth Center program was designed for use in urban, low SES regions.

Implementation Considerations: There are many individuals involved in the program. One of the first individuals to come in contact with program participants is the perinatal counselor. This individual is a community member who has been trained to recruit new mothers. There are also several social workers who conduct home visits, provide general parenting information, and are available for crisis counseling as well as providing general social support. Staff members at the Family Growth Center help run parenting classes, provide day-care services, provide transportation, and organize and supervise recreational activities. The director of the center is also involved in all aspects of the services provided. Community leaders, neighborhood members, and community youth are also involved as advisors to the director of the Family Growth Center.

Cost: The cost per year for each family participating in the Family Growth Center is about $3,000-$3,500. This includes the cost of staff salaries and training, transportation for families, home visits, day care, recreational activities, and materials for classes.

Evidence of Effectiveness: The original purpose of this program was to decrease the rate of adolescent pregnancies by providing social support and other services in order to prevent repeat pregnancies and school dropout. An extensive longitudinal study was conducted examining the effectiveness of the program. This longitudinal study occurred over a period of three years and gathered data on the occurrence of repeat pregnancies and school status (i.e., attendance, dropout). Data were collected at three points in time over the course of the study. Results indicated participants had significantly lower rates of repeat pregnancies as well as a significantly higher rate of school completion (lower dropout rate) when compared to adolescent mothers who had not received any intervention.

Manual or Training Available: A manual is available from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


Solomon, R., & Liefeld, C .P. (1998). Effectiveness of a family support center approach to adolescent mothers: Repeat pregnancy and school drop-out rates. Family Relations, 47, 139-144.

Contact Information:

Richard Solomon, M.D.
300 North Ingalls Building, Room 6D12
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0456
Phone: 734-936-9777
E-mail: ricksol@med.umich.edu

Table of Contents

Cover Page

Introduction & Getting Started

Part I: What Do We Know About Dropout Prevention?

Part II: How Were Sample Intervention Programs Selected?

  • The Need for Examples of Effective Interventions
  • Search Process & Initial Criteria
  • Raising the Bar
  • Final Parameters for Selection
  • Abstracts: Coding & Definitions

Part III: What Works in Dropout Prevention?

Part IV: Where Else Can I Go for More Information?

  • Related Resources & Organizations
  • Journal Articles & Related Publications
  • Web Sites Providing Data on Dropout Rates

Appendix: Reproducible Handouts on Dropout Prevention


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Citation: Lehr, C. A., Johnson, D. R., Bremer, C. D., Cosio, A., & Thompson, M. (2004). Essential tools: Increasing rates of school completion: Moving from policy and research to practice. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration, National Center on Secondary Education and Transition.

Permission is granted to duplicate this publication in its entirety or portions thereof. Upon request, this publication will be made available in alternative formats. For additional copies of this publication, or to request an alternate format, please contact: Institute on Community Integration Publications Office, 109 Pattee Hall, 150 Pillsbury Drive SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, (612) 624-4512, icipub@umn.edu.

This document was published by the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET). NCSET is supported through a cooperative agreement #H326J000005 with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the U.S. Department of Education Programs, and no official endorsement should be inferred. The University of Minnesota, the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition are equal opportunity employers and educators.