The Youth Service Providers Network
The Youth Service Providers Network (YSPN) is a partnership between the Boston Police Department and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. This innovative community policing program grew out of the frustration expressed by police officers that arrest is the only substantive action they can take when dealing with at-risk youth, and that no options existed for troubled youth they encountered during family disturbance calls. Additionally, police have traditionally held the belief that they are not social workers, and should not be expected to do social work. The YSPN provides police officers with alternatives - resources to assist these youth, namely through the presence and professional skills and abilities of Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs). The YSPN LCSW's sole job is to respond to concerns police officers have for at-risk youth they encounter through the course of their work. In essence, this program gives the police officer the ability to get youth the social services they so desperately need, without the added burden of trying to actually perform the social work him/herself.
YSPN referrals come to the LCSW either directly from police officers or through incident reports filed by police officers. The LCSW is based in the local police stationhouse and makes home visits in their Districts on a daily basis. Youth referred to the YSPN receive assistance under a three-tiered system of care; 1) intake and assessment, 2) short-term case management, and 3) on-going clinical services. In this year alone the YSPN has accepted over 200 referrals. The YSPN has served over 1,200 young people and their families since its inception in the summer of 1996.
Response from police officers, youth and families has been overwhelming. Police officers have grown to trust and rely on the LCSWs and Client Advocates, recognizing the valuable skills and knowledge they possess as well as the commitment and caring they demonstrate in dealing with troubled youth in the neighborhoods.
Through the YSPN, police officers have resources to assist at-risk youth. This program has greatly alleviated frustration and stress felt by officers in their dealings with youth, further empowering officers to address community concerns, and strengthening the relationship between police and community.
The YSPN is an easily replicable model, based on the simple premise that police officers need resources to assist at-risk and troubled youth. Those resources are embodied in the professional skills, knowledge and ability of Licensed Clinical Social Workers and trained Client Advocates. Police officers can access these resources with one call or a quick note to the LCSW, trusting that he/she will take it from there. Additionally, potential partnerships are available in existing youth development agencies like the Boys & Girls Clubs across the country. In the end, police officers are left with a feeling of job enrichment and personal satisfaction, knowing that they were able to help a youth in need.