The most cost effective way to serve young people and their families is to prevent problems before they start. It is crucial that services and interventions be available to youth and their families before they end up in the foster care, juvenile justice, or criminal justice systems.
For example, imagine a scenario (not at all uncommon) where a parent is at the end of her rope with her teenage daughter’s out of control behavior. They are fighting constantly and the fights get very intense because they both have many other stressors in their lives and few supports. When they threaten violence to one another, both mother and daughter realize that they need help. There are several possible risk scenarios that could play out if nobody intervenes:
(1) the mother could kick the daughter out of the home and she could become homeless (at which point Child Protective Services might eventually intervene)
(2) the daughter could get fed up and run away from home (which could also warrant CPS intervention)
(3) the fighting could get more physical and someone could get seriously injured (which could lead to the involvement of the foster care or juvenile justice systems, depending on who gets injured)
(4) the situation could escalate and the daughter could act out with criminal activities (and eventually end up in the juvenile or criminal justice system)
When these situations escalate to the point that social service agencies such as Child Protective Services or the juvenile or criminal justice system get involved, the costs of services increases dramatically and the results often fracture families permanently. It makes more sense to operate a program, such as the STAR program, that protects children and families by resolving conflicts before situations escalate to family separation.