MST -- A Fit for Child Delinquents?

Trisha Beuhring, University of Minnesota
Hope Melton, Ramsey Co. All Children Excel (ACE) Prg.
Ed Frickson, Ramsey Co. All Children Excel (ACE) Prg.

Ramsey County ACE is a comprehensive intervention for child delinquents under age 10 who have multiple risk factors for future serious and violent offending. At the time of the program's inception in 1999, little was known about the characteristics of child delinquents as a clinical target population. Consequently, ACE looked to the literature on interventions for older offenders as a guide. One nationally evaluated model that works well with recidivist adolescent offenders is Multisytemic Therapy (MST). This intensive, short term intervention focuses on improving parenting skills. Since child delinquents are not yet alienated from their parents or entrenched with antisocial peers, it was expected to be even more effective with child delinquents. A grant from the McKnight Foundation allowed ACE to conduct a randomized trial of MST. After two years, it was determined that MST is not a cost-effective intervention for high risk child delinquents under age 10. The reasons include differences in parent motivation, parent characteristics, child's developmental stage, and lack of someone to introduce the intervention. These insights suggest that the very risk factors that make some child delinquents highly likely to escalate into serious and violent offending also make it highly unlikely that any short-term parent-focused intervention will work in isolation.

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Updated 05/20/2006