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All Children Excel

Ages 6-15

Rating: Level 3


All Children Excel (or ACE) offers a sustained, intensive, and multifaceted intervention that identifies and treats high-risk children and their families. It incorporates integrated services across government units and promotes collaboration among police, school, and community-based organizations. Its goal is to prevent delinquency, substance abuse, and school dropout by promoting healthy development outcomes: school attendance and academic achievement, social competence, connections with prosocial adults and peers, involvement in skill-building activities, and improved parental management of the child’s behavior.

The Ramsey County, Minn., program relies on community referrals, with police reports, to identify youths who are committing delinquent acts. ACE uses a risk factor profile assessment (RFP) instrument to identify its target population of very young offenders. Children with moderately high to very high risk scores are identified for the long-term intervention. Children with low to moderate risk scores are referred to short-term interventions in the community such as diversion or mental health services.

Identification of high-risk children is achieved through a rigorous multiple-gate assessment process performed by a permanent county multidisciplinary team that consists of staff from public health, human services, corrections, and the county attorney’s office. The first gate is a police report filed with the county attorney’s office for a delinquent act committed at school or in the community. The county attorney reviews the report for legal sufficiency. This enables the program to file a Child in Need of Protection or Services petition if parents refuse to cooperate with attempts to provide services for the child. (This rarely happens, but children with the most resistant parents are often at highest risk). The second gate is a thorough background check regarding criminal histories of parents and siblings, histories of county services (including child protection, mental health, substance abuse, domestic abuse shelter use, and financial assistance services), and residential mobility. The third gate is interviews with school and professional staff from other county and community services who have knowledge of the child and family. The final gate is use of the RFP instrument. It measures multiple individual risk factors across multiple domains (child, family, peers, school, and neighborhood) and includes consideration of the child’s temperament in determination of the final risk score.

If the child is determined to be at high risk for serious delinquency, ACE assigns a community agency case manager to the family. The case manager establishes a treatment plan that involves child, family, school, and community resources. With clinical supervision from members of the county multidisciplinary team, ACE case managers concentrate primarily on building resiliency in the child. They also help parents obtain mental health counseling, parenting-skills training, substance abuse treatment, job training, employment opportunities, and housing.


The evaluation used a quasi-experimental pretest–posttest design with a nonequivalent comparison group. Both groups received at least some of the ACE program services. However, the treatment group received ACE services from the St. Paul Youth Services (SPYS) Department, which consisted of intensive case management that was highly adaptive to individual child and family circumstances. The control group consisted of youth who received services from the YWCA model. The YWCA was qualitatively different from that which was implemented by the SPYS. The YWCA program was largely based on an afterschool model, in which services are place-based and group-administered. The SPYS group (n=48) included 36 children who were assigned only to the SPYS, 10 who had been assigned to the Northwest Youth & Family Services (NYFS) and then were reassigned to the SPYS, and 2 who began with the YWCA and then were reassigned to the SPYS. In all cases, children had spent more time with the SPYS than any other agency, or had been managed by the same (SPYS) caseworker, even when she was employed by NYFS. The YWCA (n=28) group included 27 children who had been assigned only to the YWCA, and 1 child who had been enrolled in the Multisystemic Therapy (MST) program (face to face), and then was reassigned to the YWCA. Time spent in the MST program was minimal compared with time spent with the YWCA model.

The two groups were compared on initial RFP scores, case manager quality ratings, and the average amount of direct service time logged per month per case. A survival analysis determined the probability over time that youths in the two groups would be charged with a subsequent offense.


The analysis found that more than half (57 percent) of the children in the comprehensive onsite afterschool intervention (comparison group) were charged with a subsequent offense 6 or more months after their initial screening, compared with only 35 percent of the children in the intensive case management model (treatment group). Second, in terms of “survival” rates, the study found that an intensive case management child will, on average, go about 3½ years before being charged with a subsequent offense. By comparison, an onsite afterschool activities intervention child will survive, on average, only 2½ years. Third, next to the child’s initial RFP score, knowing which agency served the child was the best predictor of charged offenses. Fourth, children in intensive case management had significantly lower odds of being charged with a subsequent offense, even after controlling for RFP risk score. The predicted probability of being charged was about 20 percentage points higher for children in the comparison group.

Risk Factors


  • Anti-social behavior and alienation/Delinquent beliefs/General delinquency involvement/Drug dealing
  • Cognitive and neurological deficits/Low intelligence quotient/Hyperactivity
  • Early onset of aggression and/or violence
  • Favorable attitudes toward drug use/Early onset of AOD use/Alcohol and/or drug use
  • Lack of guilt and empathy
  • Life stressors
  • Mental disorder/Mental health problem/Conduct disorder
  • Victimization and exposure to violence


  • Broken home
  • Child victimization and maltreatment
  • Family history of the problem behavior/Parent criminality
  • Family management problems/Poor parental supervision and/or monitoring
  • Family violence
  • Having a young mother
  • Low parent education level/Illiteracy
  • Parental use of physical punishment/Harsh and/or erratic discipline practices
  • Pattern of high family conflict
  • Poor family attachment/Bonding
  • Sibling antisocial behavior


  • Dropping out of school
  • Inadequate school climate/Poorly organized and functioning schools/Negative labeling by teachers
  • Low academic achievement
  • Low academic aspirations
  • Low parent college expectations for child
  • Negative attitude toward school/Low bonding/Low school attachment/Commitment to school
  • School suspensions
  • Truancy/Frequent absences


  • Community crime/High crime neighborhood
  • Community instability
  • Economic deprivation/Poverty/Residence in a disadvantaged neighborhood
  • Low community attachment
  • Neighborhood youth in trouble
  • Social and physical disorder/Disorganized neighborhood


  • Association with delinquent and/or aggressive peers
  • Peer rejection

Protective Factors


  • Healthy / Conventional beliefs and clear standards
  • High expectations
  • Perception of social support from adults and peers
  • Positive / Resilient temperament
  • Positive expectations / Optimism for the future
  • Self-efficacy
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • Effective parenting
  • Good relationships with parents / Bonding or attachment to family
  • Having a stable family
  • High expectations
  • Rewards for prosocial family involvement


  • High expectations of students
  • High quality schools / Clear standards and rules
  • Opportunities for prosocial school involvement
  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults
  • Rewards for prosocial school involvement
  • Strong school motivation / Positive attitude toward school
  • Student bonding (attachment to teachers, belief, commitment)


  • Clear social norms / Policies with sanctions for violations and rewards for compliance
  • High expectations
  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults
  • Prosocial opportunities for participation / Availability of neighborhood resources


  • Good relationships with peers
  • Involvement with positive peer group activities
  • Parental approval of friends


Beuhring, Trisha, and Hope Melton. 2002a. “Best Bet” Intervention Strategy: Report to Ramsey County Board of Commissioners on Implications of ACE Research. Ramsey County, Minn.

———. 2002b. Preliminary Outcome Evaluation Study: Report to Ramsey County Board of Commissioners. Ramsey County, Minn.

McVicker, Carrie. “Minnesota Youth ‘ACE’ Intervention Program.” Children’s Voice. Available online at

Schmitz, Connie, and Michael Luxenberg. April 2004. The Ramsey County All Children Excel (ACE) Program: A Comprehensive Process Evaluation. Ramsey County, Minn.

Schmitz, Connie, and Michael Luxenberg. June 2004. Final Report and Summative Evaluation Plan for the Ramsey County ACE Program. Ramsey County, Minn.


Hope Melton, Program Director
Department of Human Services
160 East Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55101
Phone: (651) 266-4202
Fax: (651) 266-4436
E-mail: Hope.Melton@CO.RAMSEY.MN.US
Web site:

Technical Assistance Provider

Ed Frickson, Program Director
Department of Human Services
160 East Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55101
Phone: (654) 266-4042
Web site: