Over the past 14 years, Alexandria children ages three to five years old have shown significant improvement in developing their social skills and decreasing problem behaviors, thanks to the Al’s Pals: Kids Making Healthy Choices program offered by the Department of Community and Human Services.
Since 2003, the program has reached more than 6,000 children. Of these children, an average of 66 percent has shown improvement in social skills and an average of 62 percent have maintained or reduced problem behaviors. The program is funded by grants from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth.
During the 2016-2017 school year, Al’s Pals operated in 41 preschool classrooms citywide. During the last fiscal year, 517 children completed the program. Of these children, an average of 59 percent (304) improved their pro-social skills and an average of 62 percent (320) showed improvement or no increase in problem behavior.
In addition to the Al’s Pals program, the DCHS Preschool Prevention Team provides preschool staff workshops, parent workshops, child and classroom observations, parent and staff consultations, child and family therapy sessions and caregiver/child playgroups.
Prevention and early intervention programs increase protective factors and decrease significant risk factors, which together help to improve school readiness and positive outcomes across the developmental spectrum.
Al’s Pals is a science-based program that helps develop personal, social and emotional skills through 46 interactive lessons utilizing puppets, songs and engaging activities that improve a child’s decision making. Al’s Pals teaches lessons such as expressing feelings, caring about others, using self-control, thinking independently, accepting differences, and making safe and healthy choices.