DFCP's Office of School-Linked Services contracts with a number of private non-profit organizations and/or school districts to provide a variety of prevention and support services for youth in New Jersey’s public elementary, middle and high schools. As a result, young people, and at times their families, are able to access services such as mental health, employment, substance abuse counseling, preventive health care, violence prevention, learning support, mentorship, teen parent skill development along with recreation.
The School Based Youth Services Program (SBYSP) was started in 1987 to help young people navigate their adolescent years, finish their education, obtain skills leading to employment or continuing education, and graduate healthy and drug free.
Adolescents have numerous concerns and problems. Since a substantial number of teenagers have multiple problems that call for several different services, SBYSP provides an array of employment, health and social services. Services are available to all youth and recreation is provided. In addition to the following core services, each site develops services which respond to local needs, such as on-site child care, so that teen parents can stay in school.
The major services are:
Mental health and family services
Healthy youth development
Access to primary and preventative health services
Substance abuse counseling
Pregnancy prevention programs
Learning support services
Referrals to community based services
SBYSP sites, which are located in each of the 21 counties in or near schools in urban, rural and suburban communities, are open to all youth ages 10-19, and provide services before, during and after school and throughout the summer. The comprehensive "one-stop shopping" design helps break down barriers and bureaucratic roadblocks that too often prevent young people from obtaining services and supports. The program has been extended to younger students in some school districts. Currently there are 90 SBYSP operating in 67 high schools, 18 middle schools and 5 elementary schools.
A recently-completed three-year evaluation of the SBYSP shows that New Jersey's model program is effective in providing services that adolescents use to address their problems. The evaluation was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and conducted by the Academy for Educational Development (AED). The final report from AED concludes that SBYSP has been able to make important differences in the lives of vulnerable students.
Specifically, youth who were involved in SBYSP showed:
Increased educational aspirations and higher accumulation of credits
Diminished feelings of unhappiness, sadness, depression and suicidal thoughts
Improved sleep habits and less worrying
Less destructive behavior and feelings of anger
Decreased use of tobacco and alcohol
More and improved interaction with families and friends
Better use of contraceptives to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases