What are Community-Based Programs?

Almost all the program models in Southwest Key’s Youth and Family division are “community-based programs,” which focus on keeping at-risk youth and their families in their communities where they can thrive. The phrase can have a few definitions, each depending on context. Sometimes they’re tied to long-term healthcare providers or Medicaid services — but we’re going to stick with the definition used by social workers and other experts in our industry. From Functional Family Therapy to Evening Reporting Centers, these programs understand the value of a strong community and its ability to help everyone succeed. 


Southwest Key connects youth and families with several important community supports, each unique to their needs and availability of local resources. So, what do we mean when we say “Community-Based?”  Ware strengthening the connection between youth, their families, and their local community resources. Specifically, resources they can access even after we’ve stopped providing services. Resources can be natural or formal support, such as counseling services, recreational experiences, housing support and healthcare. These are provided by local organizations or led by individual leaders in the community.  In addition, our services are primarily provided in the home during non-traditional work hours — so we can better meet their needs. 

Why is it important to connect clients to these resources?

They are far more effective at reducing recidivism, which is the tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior, especially criminal behavior. Most of our Youth and Family Services programs see over 80% of our clients remain free of new charges, with some programs even reaching 95%. 



Southwest Key Youth and Family Services programs focus on helping at-risk youth and their families thrive in their communities. This is where Southwest Key started in 1987, and it is one of the oldest and most successful program areas of our organization. We don’t love the term “juvenile,” because it tends to oversimplify the experience of youth involved in the justice system, but most of our programs work with system-involved youth that others would use the term “juvenile” to describe. 

Youth who get more support from their families and their communities are more likely to maintain their positive habits and much less likely to re-offend.

This support can come directly from families, schools, local religious and charitable organizations or local partner organizations.  

In addition to reducing recidivism, these programs also help youth become more accountable for their actions, learn valuable life skills, help improve their relationships and increase their problem-solving skills.   


Community-based programs can take many forms, and Southwest Key has several under its umbrella, including:  

  • Functional Family Therapy (FFT) — A three- to four-month in-home family-based therapeutic program for youth and their families. FFT is designed to enhance healthy family dynamics through improved communication and accountability, which in turn reduces delinquent behavior and increases overall family well-being. 
  • Youth Mentoring — Youth mentors are matched with mentees who meet them weekly for social and learning activities.  Mentoring can be provided one-on-one or in a group format. 
  • Evening Reporting Centers — This after-school program is designed to provide structure and supervision to system-involved youth, including free snacks and family-style meals, recreation, educational support and skills training.  
  • Youth Tracking Services — A program designed to keep youth at home and out of detention facilities as they await court disposition, with an emphasis on accountability and support.   
  • Community Connections – A comprehensive program for system-involved youth and families with high needs.  This program offers therapeutic interventions, case management, skill- building and supervision. These services work well with youth at high risk of out-of-home placement or for youth returning home from placement. 
  • Family Keys – An intensive short-term case management program primarily for youth who are not system involved but at risk due to family conflict, truancy or other identified high-risk behavior.  Families are provided crisis stabilization, case management and case coordination. 



How exactly does the community get involved in each of these programs, along with all the others?  

  • Natural Community Resources — We recognize that each community is unique and a one-size-fits-all solution is rarely effective, so we seek and engage local natural resources and connect them with youth and families who need them most.  
  • Keeping Youth in Their Homes — Taking youth and children out of the home affects their ability to build or maintain positive relationships with family, schools and peers. Removing them from their homes and communities often results in greater damage to the child.  We work with the youth and families to build a network of support to allow the youth to safely remain at home.  
  • Partnerships for Success — Community-based care goes beyond connecting individuals, it can connect youth and families with entire organizations. This includes local businesses making charitable donations or providing opportunities to develop new skills, higher education institutions providing interns or educational opportunities, or other social services organizations meeting gaps in services.   

Communities are more than a single location, culture, or group of people. They are all those things — and more! Community engagement and support help encourage positive behaviorsreduce recidivism, and most importantly, help youth and families thrive. 

To learn more about our community-based care, check out how we use Trauma-Informed Care.


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