Wilmington Delaware Youth Violence Prevention

What are the goals of the program?

In December 2013, realizing that the issue of firearm violence rates in the City of Wilmington, especially among youth, was becoming a crisis situation, the city leaders requested that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assist in an investigation of gun violence and provide recommendations for preventive action. Specifically, the CDC was asked to provide epidemiologic assistance and make programmatic recommendations for a public health response.

The major finding from The CDC study were that those who are committing acts of violence had adverse experiences in their lives before they were engaged in violence, e.g., did not have a stable family environment, may have had problems in school, had been a victim of violence or traumatic event, and/or had been engaged in some criminal activity.

The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) subsequently created the CDC Community Advisory Council in February 2016 to provide recommendations for the services to be provided to high-risk youth in conjunction with risk assessment tools.

Who are the Partners?

Although the City of Wilmington initiated the outreach to the CDC, it was the Delaware DHSS that released the CDC's final report which looked at gun violence from a public health and social services perspective. The Community Advisory Council includes 38 representatives from the school districts; community-based organizations; faith communities; Cease Violence Program; Delaware Divisions of Public Health, Prevention and Behavioral Health and Youth Rehabilitative Services; United Way of  Delaware; City of Wilmington; as well as community advocates.

How was the effort funded?

The CDC conducted the original research using their own budgetary resources. The Community Advisory Council received initial funding support for its administrative efforts from Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. The CDC Community Advisory Council members are all volunteers. To ensure future progress, inter-governmental partnerships and collaborations among the City of Wilmington, New Castle County and the State of Delaware are being explored. This includes finding ways to reprogram existing budget items and programs to move towards implementation of the full CDC recommendations.


Consolidating all of the data and research, the Advisory Council developed recommendations on the network of services that can and should be strengthened to prevent youth violence and help youth make good choices, be resilient, and grow up to be physically and mentally healthy members of their communities.

The recommendations are:

  1. Foster violence-free environments and promote positive opportunities and connections to trusted adults – Build the capacity of schools and community centers through training, technical assistance, resources, and service integration to engage more youth, especially older youth, in after school, evening, and weekend programs.
  2. Intervene with youth and families at the first sign of risk – Develop a multi-tiered identification and referral system to be accessed by families, schools, community organizations, and health care providers, as well as options for self-referral to connect youth to needed services with case management/care coordination; provide more social work and behavioral health supports on site in schools and community organizations; and further explore the development and implementation of a predictive tool for the early identification of youth at risk of committing violent acts.
  3. Restore youth who have gone down the wrong path – Increase the level of support for youth, especially those ages 16 to 24, transitioning back to their homes, schools, and communities to help them develop personal pathways to success with appropriate services and case management/care coordination for as long as needed.
  4. Protect children and youth from violence in the community – Increase support for outreach programs that engage the community in creating and sustaining a culture and environment that prevents violence and promotes positive youth development such as the Cure Violence evidence-based model.
  5. Integrate services -- Develop and pilot a model for the integration of direct services for children, youth, and their families engaging school districts, schools, community organizations, hospital systems, and key state agencies by establishing a central student data and service entity with a common platform for student data sharing, service information, and school-based coordinators responsible for connecting students to needed services; align and integrate policies, programs, services, client data sharing, and resources for children, youth, and their families at the state level through the creation of a Children’s Cabinet Council under the Governor.
  6. Address policy issues that have unintended adverse consequences for youth - Research and mitigate policy impediments to: accessibility of community-based programs for youth; transitioning of youth back to traditional public and charter schools from alternative settings to complete their education and graduate; sharing youth specific data among schools and state agencies; improving school codes of conduct and disciplinary policies to make them more equitable; and transitioning youth successfully from youth to adult medical and behavioral health services.


Center for City Solutions