Quick Facts

The research on children growing up in low-income and distressed families, schools, and communities paint a bleak picture.  There is risk in virtually every domain of development and points to negative outcomes such as delinquency, dropping out of school, incarceration, unemployment, chronic health problems, addiction, and premature death.

Already the poorest big city in America, Philadelphia also has the highest rate of deep poverty – people with incomes below half of the poverty line – of any of the nation’s 10 most populous cities.[1]

Philadelphia’s deep-poverty rate is 12.2 percent, or nearly 185,000 people, including about 60,000 children. That’s almost twice the U.S. deep-poverty rate of 6.3 percent.

In many Philadelphia communities, poverty (32.9%) has been a persistent obstacle for healthy child development, education, and welfare.[2] Poverty data clearly show that once stable neighborhoods have become communities in crisis with downward spiraling socio-economic levels and upward trending dropout and juvenile delinquency rates.[3]  To some extent, nearly every neighborhood in Philadelphia experiences the problem of their young residents becoming dropouts or near-dropouts.  But schools with students from high-poverty households (more than 75%) in which more than 15% of students were dropouts or near-dropouts are our target group.

Promoting Healthy Development

  • 25%… children under the age of 18 suffer from mild behavioral problems

  • 20%…of children in Southeastern Pennsylvania accessed behavioral health services through the public system.

  • Data shows that if we invest in that potential through child welfare and behavioral health services, then children will stay in school and out of the juvenile justice system.

  • 44%…of high school students suffering from behavioral health issues drop out of school

  • 70%…of children and teenagers in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder

The majority of students referred for participation in Northern’s programs typically display behavioral challenges that manifest as multiple school suspensions, poor academic performance, impulsivity, and difficulty responding appropriately to school structure and authority figures. Other children experience coping challenges in their home environment, often resulting from limited family support or lack of a stable care-giving structure. Some children are unresponsive to parental limit setting, and display pre-delinquent behaviors that can be addressed through appropriate interventions.

In a clinical context, these challenges are identified based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, better known as DSM, which relies upon a multiaxial or multidimensional approach to reaching a diagnosis. It takes into consideration clinical syndromes (for example, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder—ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder—PTSD, oppositional defiant disorder—ODD), developmental and personality disorders (for example, autism), physical conditions that play a role in the exacerbation of clinical or developmental issues (such as asthma), and psychosocial stressors (such as the trauma of losing a loved one, divorce, or abuse).

Northern embraces a service-delivery approach that recognizes the impact of trauma in shaping young lives. This trauma-informed model seeks to nurture resilience, build confidence, and provide children with the tools needed to overcome adversity.  Our specialized evidenced-based therapy is provided at Northern, in schools, and homes and communities throughout Philadelphia and Chester without cost to vulnerable, children, youth and families. 

Supporting documentation for stats above

In the Philadelphia School District, many children suffer from undiagnosed behavioral problems.  Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth projects that of the 950,000 children in the region under the age of 18, at least 200,000 suffer from mild behavioral problems.  Another 100,000 struggle to overcome significant behavioral health issues and most, if not all of these children need mental/behavioral health services and/or care (PCCY 2008).  Despite this direct need, in 2007, only about 39,000 children in Southeastern Pennsylvania accessed behavioral health services through the public system (PCCY 2008). Data shows that if we invest in that potential through child welfare and behavioral health services, then children will stay in school and out of the juvenile justice system. Up to 44 percent of high school students suffering from behavioral health issues drop out of school (Schlosberg and Levons 2010) and up to 70 percent of children and teenagers in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder (Cooper and Masi 2006).

[1] U.S. Census 2013 American Community Survey

[2] Poverty Rate Data (2009). Retrieved from: http://www.city-data.com/poverty/

[3] Robert Balfanz and Ruth Curran Neild , “Unfulfilled Promise: The Dimensions and Characteristics of Philadelphia’s Dropout Crisis,” 2000-05.