Community Monitoring Systems (CMS) for Young People

Community Monitoring Systems (CMS) can contribute to the successful development of children and adolescents. Such systems measure critical aspects of child and adolescent well being and the factors that influence their growth. Some communities have already shown that the development and maintenance of these systems can make critical information available to decision makers and community members so that they can improve the school, family, and community practices that affect young people. But there is need for scientific and organizational leadership that can assure the continued development of these systems. The Society for Prevention Research is seeking to promote the research and infrastructure development needed to make these systems widely and effectively available (click here for the full text of project publication).

Key Features of An Ideal Community Monitoring System

  • Provides the community with accurate estimates of well being for the entire population of children and adolescents in the community.
  • Identifies core indicators of well being that research shows are important. The indicators include both measures of youth functioning and measures of the factors that influence development.
  • Generates information for decision makers and community members so that it can be easily understood and readily used for answering specific questions.
  • Provides timely data about trends in well-being and risk and protective factors that predict youth outcomes.
  • Utilizes available data including both survey and archival data.
  • Encourages widespread participation of community members in the design, maintenance, and use of the system.
  • Guides priority setting and decision-making regarding choice of programs, policies, and practices to improve youth well being.

Current Status of Community Monitoring Systems

Several effective monitoring systems are being developed at the county, city, and neighborhood levels. For example, the Family Services Task Force of Oswego County in New York State has created a common database on child and adolescent well being, and instituted countywide comprehensive planning. The Cleveland Area Network for Data Organizing has incorporated federal, state, and local data into a “data warehouse” from which neighborhood profiles including geographical mapping can be made ( Connect Kansas ( ) is another example of a local CMS. Using data from the Communities That Care Survey and numerous other data sources, it provides a profile of the well-being of young people in each county in Kansas.

Support for the Development of Community Monitoring Systems

There are numerous national and state-level resources available that support the development of monitoring systems. Two organizations promoting the systematic use of data at the national level to improve youth well being are:

  • Kids Count provides an interactive online database that profiles well being in each state ( ).
  • The Child Trends DataBank provides continuously updated national and subgroup data on more than 80 indicators of child and youth well being ( ).

There are several other organizations that provide resources to communities for developing monitoring systems, including SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention ( Information about these organizations is available on the SPR website (

The Role of SPR in Community Monitoring Systems

SPR can provide the scientific consensus and leadership in the development and implementation of CMS across the country and play a crucial role in advocating action at the federal, state and local levels. Specifically, SPR members can reach out to decision makers and community members in their own localities to stress the importance and the need for CMS. They can also urge ongoing discussion in the media about the role of prevention science as a mature discipline that can contribute to the positive development of youth.

The federal role must include

  • Funding research and infrastructure development in states to improve monitoring systems;
  • Disseminating evidence about what needs to be monitored; and
  • Developing policies and technical assistance that encourage the development and use of CMS in states and communities.

The states’ role must include

  • Developing a consensus among state agencies and local communities about the aspects of youth functioning to be monitored; and
  • Creating an infrastructure of state and local people who are trained in monitoring, measurement, and the use of data.

The local role must include

  • Developing a community consensus about what should be monitored;
  • Establishing the monitoring system; and
  • Embedding the monitoring system in the community’s system of decision making so that it guides the communities’ programs and policies.

You can contribute to the development of this important practice by making this information available to federal, state, and local decision makers. Please urge them to take the actions indicated above and to visit the SPR website ( .

[Return to Top]