Teen Outreach Program (TOPS)

This model was developed as a school-based program that involves young people in volunteer activities in their communities. The volunteer work is linked to a classroom curriculum that touches on a variety of topics ranging from family conflict to human growth and development. This blend of activities allows students to become “help givers” as opposed to “help receivers.” Participants develop relationships with program staff, and gain a sense of competence and autonomy, experiencing the power of making a difference in other people’s lives. Research on the effectiveness of this approach shows an actual reduction in teen pregnancy rates while the youth are involved in the program. Evaluation data also indicate that participants reduce their sexual-risk taking behaviors (Kirby, 2001).

This positive youth development program, initially established in 1978, has served thousands of youth across dozens of states, and has been described as “the best evidence we have that social programs can prevent teen pregnancy” (Kirby, 2007). Evaluation data on the effectiveness the Teen Outreach Program has consistently shown a reduction in teen pregnancy and school failure rates when compared to control subjects (Allen, et al, 1997).

Teen Outreach is targeted for youth between the ages of 12 and 17, both boys and girls are served together, and the program materials are available in English or with a Spanish adaptation manual. The program can be implemented either as an in-school requirement as part of a core course; as an in-school elective; as an after-school program with volunteer participation; or as a community-based program aimed at providing enrichment for the program participants. This program is designed for either a school year calendar or any consecutive nine-month period. In order to reap the maximum benefits from this approach to teen pregnancy prevention, it is recommended that small groups of 20-25 youth sessions be convened at least once or twice per week, led by trained facilitators. Participants perform at least 20 hours of community service per school year.

The Connecticut Department of Social Services began its support of the TOP model in Connecticut in 2007 in association with the Wyman Center which distributes the official curriculum, Changing Scenes, to be utilized with TOP.

Changing Scenes, is divided into developmentally progressive components targeted to four different age groups. The curriculum emphasizes healthy decision-making about life options. Topics include: values, human growth and development, school issues, relationships, sexuality, dealing with family stress, and issues related to the emotional and social transitions from adolescence to adulthood. Communication and decision-making skills are addressed. Group sessions are interactive and developmentally oriented, and may include use of videos, guest speakers, art projects, journal writing and role-playing.

The community service component involves supervised volunteer opportunities arranged in a variety of settings, depending on the individual community needs and an individual student’s interests. Examples of activities include working as aides in hospitals and nursing homes, participating in walk-a-thons, peer tutoring, and outdoor projects, such as neighborhood clean up or beautification work, etc. Volunteer events may be arranged for individual participants, small groups or large groups, depending on the nature of the activity. The service learning experiences are discussed during the regular group meetings, and include planning and preparing for the volunteer opportunities; exploring issues such as self-confidence, social skills, assertiveness, self-discipline; and reflecting on their own and others’ volunteer experiences. (Allen, et al, 1997).

View the 2016 Report Card for a “snap shot” on how well the TOPS model is being implemented in Connecticut.

At this time, this model is being used in:

Bridgeport
Family Centered Services of CT, Inc.
235 Nicoll Street
New Haven, CT 06511
203-624-2600 x300

East Hartford
CJR Waterbury
80 Prospect Street
Waterbury, CT 06702
203-757-9939

Hartford
Village for Families & Children, Inc.
1680 Albany Avenue
Hartford, CT 06105
860-236-4511

Killingly
EASTCONN
376 Hartford Turnpike
Hampton, CT 06247
860-455-0707

Meriden
CJR
80 Prospect Street
Waterbury, CT 06702
203-757-9939

New Britain
Greater New Britain Teen Pregnancy Prevention Inc.
Pathways Senderos Center
43 Viets Street
New Britain, CT 06053
860-229-2776
nbtpp@snet.net

New Haven
Family Centered Services of CT, Inc.
235 Nicoll Street
New Haven, CT 06511
203-624-2600 x300

New London
Uncas Health District
401 West Thames Street, Suite 106
Norwich, CT 06360
860-823-1189 x109

Norwich
Uncas Health District
401 West Thames Street, Suite 106
Norwich, CT 06360
860-823-1189 x109
Website

Torrington
CJR Waterbury
80 Prospect Street
Waterbury, CT 06702
203-757-9939

West Haven
Family Centered Services of CT, Inc.
235 Nicoll Street
New Haven, CT 06511
203-624-2600 x300

Windham
EASTCONN
376 Hartford Turnpike
Hampton, CT 06247
860-455-0707