Programs that Work
DARE to be You
Children Ready for School
Children ages 0 to 5 exhibiting age-appropriate mental and physical development
Age of Child
Early Childhood (0-8)
Type of Setting
Child Care / Preschool
Community-Based Service Provider
Type of Service
Type of Outcome Addressed
Substance Use and Dependence
Evidence Level (What does this mean?)
DARE to be You (DTBY) focuses on improving the parenting skills of parents of young children (age 2 to 5) in order promote children’s resiliency to problems later in life, which can, in turn, reduce children's alcohol and drug use as they grow up. The traditional DTBY focuses on reducing alcohol and drug abuse among 5 to 18-year-olds, but the program described here treats only preschoolers and their parents. There were several components of the program: a children's component, a parents' component, training for child-care providers, and training for social service agency workers who work with families.
The program was found to be most effective when provided in two-hour-long blocks for each session, with the sessions given over a 10- to 12-week period. Each series of workshops for parents, their young children, and the children's siblings included 10 to 25 parents and their children. Each session began with a joint activity for parents and children and then continued with separate activities for participants based on their age. Each session focused on a different program objective, mostly related to improving parenting techniques. The objectives included:
- Improve parents' self-esteem.
- Increase parents' realization that consequences are brought about by their actions, rather than by fate, chance or a "Powerful Other," thereby changing the "locus of control" of consequences from an external source to an internal source.
- Enhance decision-making skills through effective reasoning.
- Increase communication skills between parents and children, particularly to improve children's self-esteem, decision making, and problem-solving skills.
- Learn effective stress management.
- Learn the speed at which children should develop in order to decrease unrealistic expectations.
- Strengthen peer support and reduce isolation.
Families were also offered annual reinforcement workshops that consisted of four two-hour long sessions. The workshops addressed parents' requests for more information or more skill-building exercises related to the different focuses of the original program objectives. For example, issues surrounding child development was a common topic. Ongoing group activities, including monthly support groups and parent potlucks, were also offered. Participants chose the topics to be covered in those meetings.
At all events, child care for the infants of program participants was provided and parents were paid a small cash incentive for participating.
Concurrent with the workshops for families, DTBY provided training for other caregivers, including teenagers and family-oriented agencies. These caregivers received up to 20 hours of training in working with preschool children.
Program participants were at-risk children age 2 to 5 and their parents. Risk factors for alcohol use included foster care, child abuse, a parent who dropped out of high school, low annual income, and family history of mental illness or substance abuse. However, to avoid any stigma being attached to program participants, some families who were not considered to be high risk were also included in the program. Although all four of the experimental DTBY sites were in Colorado, participants varied by ethnicity, location (urban or rural), and income levels. The sites included a very poor and isolated Native-American community; a poor and primarily Hispanic rural community with high rates of child abuse and drunk-driving arrests; and a largely white, semi-rural community with few available social services and high rates of poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, and child abuse; and an urban location with the state’s highest rates of child abuse and teen pregnancy. New families were recruited into the program each year for five years.
Eligible families in each of the four sites were randomly assigned to either the treatment group or control group. On average, each site included 28 treatment and 17 control families each of the five years. Standard psychological assessments were administered to all participating families before and after treatment. Post-tests were administered to the experimental group immediately after the program's end; post-tests for all families were given one year after the program began and one year again after that. The attrition rate reached 29 percent by the second-year follow-up, but there were few significant differences between the families who dropped out and the families who completed the follow-up tests. In addition, evaluators surveyed participants on their perceptions of the workshops in order to determine whether the same content was taught across sites.
Key Evaluation Findings
The evaluators measured the program according to the program objectives discussed in each workshop (Miller-Heyl et al., 1998). The findings in regard to each program objective included the following:
- Parental self-esteem: Parents in the treatment group, whose self-esteem was measured before and after the workgroup sessions, showed significantly increased feelings of confidence in their parenting skills. In addition, at both the one-year and the two-year mark, parents in the treatment group showed higher levels of self-esteem than parents in the control group.
- Locus of control: Between the pre-test and post-test periods, there was a significant decline in the treatment group's belief that chance controls outcomes and a smaller decline in the group’s belief that powerful others determine outcomes. However, over time, both the treatment and the control groups showed similar declines in those beliefs in the subsequent follow-ups. Thus, the treatment was shown to be effective in the short-term, but less so over time, as compared to the control group.
- Parents' reasoning skills: Between Year 1 and Year 2 of the program, parents in the treatment group appeared to blame themselves and their children for children’s poor behavior less than parents in the control group.
- Parental communication with their children that leads to effective discipline: Three areas associated with this measure were tested: overly harsh punishment, disciplining effectively, and setting limits for children. Tests measuring these areas showed no change among parents in the control group, but the scores of parents in the experimental group showed improvements through the two year follow-up period.
- Child behavior: The goal of this measure was to determine if children exhibited more age-appropriate behavior after participating in the program and if parents recognized this behavior as such. Evaluators asked parents and other caregivers to note whether a child demonstrated a particular behavior among a checklist of behaviors, and, if so, whether the parents perceived the behavior as being inappropriate. Children exhibited significant increases in their development and age-appropriate behaviors, both compared with their pre-test scores and with the control group. In addition, certain misbehavior – notably "oppositional behaviors" such as engaging in frequent and irrational arguments – decreased significantly as compared with the control group. A notable effect from the program that possibly decreased oppositional behaviors was an increase in parents' knowledge of typical behavior for a preschooler and/or an increase in the use of more-effective discipline on their part.
- Social support networks and peer support: Between the pre-test and the first-year post-test, parents in the experimental group increased their satisfaction with available social support networks more so than parents in the control group did. However, there was no evidence that DTBY changed parents' actual social networks.
Community organizations in a variety of high-risk communities.
Funding for the evaluation was provided by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. DTBY is based at Colorado State University's Cooperative Extension, but funding sources and costs vary locally.
Family service agencies that worked both with the program and with the involved families were asked about the most significant aspects of DTBY. Almost all (98 percent) said that they believed its curriculum was its main strength. More than two-thirds (68 percent) said that its structural support aspects, such as providing infant child care, incentive pay, and follow-up sessions, were also important. Fewer respondents (29 percent) said that program staff was a main strength of the program and even fewer (10 percent) said the same about cultural sensitivity.
The curriculum used by the evaluation sites is available from the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension DARE to be You Program (see Available Resources). The curriculum included joint parent-child workshops, classes for parents, and age-appropriate children's activities. Group discussion and interactive activities predominated, and some lectures also were offered.
Staff members for the evaluation sites included a program coordinator and teachers for parents and children. Several teachers were needed at each site because of the multiple age ranges of the children.
Issues to Consider
DTBY received a "proven" rating. Although the program is designated as being proven, it is only proven for socio-emotional development of a child and not for prevention of drug abuse. The affected outcomes are only indirectly related to the professed program goal of reducing substance abuse. There is no evidence that the program prevents drug abuse, as the children were not followed into adolescence. On the other hand, the experimental design, including randomized assignment, a comparison group that received no intervention, and ample sample size, provides evidence that the program positively affects children's socio-emotional development.
DTBY runs two other substance abuse prevention programs: one is for teen parents and their children and the other is a school-based program for Grades K–12. These programs are not included in this evaluation; therefore, the findings here regarding DTBY apply only to the program for parents of 2- to 5-year-olds. If evaluation findings for the other DTBY programs become available, they will be reviewed and this summary will be updated as necessary.
It should also be noted that the person who developed and implemented the DTBY program conducted the evaluation.
In addition to the four sites included in the evaluation, DTBY has also been implemented in the following communities or among the following groups:
- Pueblo County Cooperative Extension, Colorado
- Navajo Community, BIA, Shiprock Department of Education, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah
- Asian Association of Salt Lake City, Utah
- African-American and Hispanic communities in Contra Costa County, California
DARE to be You
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension
1413 N. Mildred Rd.
Cortez, CO 81321
Phone: (970) 222-9649
Additional contacts: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
The following program materials are available:
- DARE to be You Replication Manual for the DARE to be You Program for Families of Preschool Youth, Caregivers, and Community (2000)
- DARE to be You Parent Training Guide insert packet (1998)
- DARE to be You Preschool Activity Guide (1992)
- DARE to be You Parent Training Guide (1991)
- DARE to be You K-12 Life Skills and Substance Abuse Prevention Curriculum (five-volume set) (1988)
- DARE to be You Leaders' Manual, 2nd ed. (1985).