CASE STUDY 7: The Advocate School at the Mid-Valley Youth Center, Van Nuys, California

Media reports of gang violence make headlines in the papers. But after the arrests are made, what happens to adolescent gang members? Some end up at the Mid-Valley Youth Center in Los Angeles County, a residential and educational program enrolling 84 residents aged 11-18.86

Opened in 1988 under contract with the Los Angeles County Departments of Probation and Children’s Services, Mid-Valley has developed expertise in rehabilitating troubled youth. The Advocate School on Mid-Valley’s grounds provides full-time individualized instruction with student-to-staff ratios of three-to-one, including counselors.

Advocate School staff are doubly challenged. Not only do their students bring with them a history of delinquency, the students have also been diagnosed as being severely emotionally disturbed. All students at the Advocate School are eligible for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The rate per-pupil for the Advocate School’s day program is approximately $90 per day.

The typical student coming to the Advocate Schools is two to three grade levels behind in academics and remains at the school for 9 to 18 months. Students attend both the school and the residential-treatment program. Over half the students have been referred to the Advocate School and the Mid-Valley Youth Center by the state Department of Probations. Says school director Kathryn Delzell, "almost all students at the Advocate School had previously been gang members or functioned at the periphery of gang culture."87