Our Research

Community Based Children and Family Mental Health Services Research Program

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Building multi-level support for recreational staff members to infuse mental health promotion into everyday practices

This project is a collaboration with Urban Initiatives, a citywide non-profit foundation that utilizes soccer and active play to promote youth physical and mental health in resource-scarce neighborhoods.  The project employs an iterative collaborative approach to enhance the organizational capacity of UI to impact youth physical and mental health by strengthening their workforce development practices. Specifically, project staff and Urban Initiatives are working together to (a) develop a training and support system to increase the capacity of UI staff to promote youth mental health; (b) develop fidelity measures to support quality assurance; and (c) assess the feasibility and acceptability of the training and support system. Currently we are attending ongoing UI professional development activities, conducting site visits, and meeting regularly with UI leadership to strengthen the relationship and collaboratively build the training and support system. Plans for Year Two include be a study examining the feasibility and acceptability of the support system developed in year one.

Community readiness for a culturally relevant sexually transmitted infection (STI/HIV) and intimate partner violence (IPV) intervention with urban American Indians

There is growing recognition of the need to understand the health and development of American Indians (AIs) living in urban communities. The relationship between sexually transmitted infections (STI), including HIV, and intimate partner violence (IPV) is well-documented in non-AI populations, but relatively few studies have focused on urban AI populations specifically. The purpose of this study is to assess community knowledge about and readiness to address STI/HIV and IPV, including the co-occurrence of these two issues, using a qualitative interview-based method called the Community Readiness Model (CRM). CRM was designed for use with AI communities, and has been successfully applied to build on current community capacity to address a wide range of issues. Participants in this study are Chicago American Indian Community stakeholders. Findings from this study will facilitate a community - academic partnership to expand treatment capacity and enhance sexual and mental health among AIs living in a large urban community. This project is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Leaders @ Play

Our team has been collaborating with the Chicago Park District for the past decade to develop and implement strategies that capitalize on the inherent opportunities present in recreation to support and promote children’s mental health. Leaders @ Play was a program designed to promote mental health for participating adolescents and support healthy behavioral, social, and emotional functioning among younger children. Leaders @ Play examined the capacity of parks to facilitate social and emotional skills among youth and support youth to reach developmentally and culturally appropriate milestones, including healthy relationships, school success, and acquisition of workforce skills. Adolescents participated in weekly trainings with an evidence-informed curriculum that utilized sports and recreation to introduce and reinforce skills in problem solving, emotion regulation, and effective communication. The final iteration of Leaders @ Play was implemented in five parks during the summer of 2016.

For more information on Leaders@Play please click here.

Building Family Foundations (BFF)

BFF was a prenatal to early childhood home-visiting program to support first-time Latino and African American young mothers in their transition to motherhood and adulthood. BFF services focused on strengthening mothers’ ability to use positive parenting strategies and to support their children’s development and school readiness.  Once again, services were primarily delivered by highly trained paraprofessionals called Family Coaches who are supervised by mental health clinicians.  Programmatic work focused on the adaptation of Family Spirit-a strength-based empirically supported paraprofessional home visiting program developed for Native Americans- to our urban, Latino and African American parent population.

Partners Achieving School Success (PASS)

PASS was a school based mental health prevention and early intervention program for children in pre-kindergarten through third grade.  Our team collaborated with four social service agencies on a school-based prevention and early intervention program for youth in K-3rd grade living in impoverished communities in Chicago (approximately n=700).  PASS services focused on six key skills related to positive parenting and how to support children’s learning.  These services were delivered by non-traditional providers called School-Family Liaisons (SFLs) who are supervised by mental health clinicians.

Links Center

The LINKS Center (P20 MH078458) was a virtual developing center created to advance research and practice on community-based models to promote the mental health needs of children living in urban poverty. It was comprised of researchers at University of Illinois Chicago, Medical University of South Carolina, University of Tennessee, New York University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Virginia. Completed in 2014, three major programs of research from the Center are influencing policy and practice for children in urban poverty: Project Bridge, a teacher consultation and coaching intervention delivered by school mental health staff, Classrooms as Work Units, a study examining how student and teacher experiences of their classrooms relation to classroom processes and to student learning and behavior, and Leaders@Play, an after-school program designed to strengthen resilience for early adolescent youth. Efforts are underway to align these programs with public school and park district mental health initiatives in Chicago, New York City, and Miami.

For more information on Project Bridge please click here.

For more information on Classrooms as Work Units please click here.

Links to Learning

Links to Learning was funded by the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) to examine a school-based model for mental health consultation to urban, high poverty schools that focuses on the key empirical predictors of children’s learning and uses parent and teacher key informants to facilitate program utilization and sustainability. A primary goal of this model was to align mental health resources to support K-6th grade children’s learning in home and school settings, and to study the extent to which this will lead to stronger mental health outcomes for children, relative to mental health services as usual. The project was located in 6 Chicago Public Schools and 4 collaborating social service agencies.

For more information on Links to Learning please click here.

Project NAFASI (Nurturing All Families through After School Improvement)

This study examined relationships among organizational features of after school programs, child and parent reports of program experiences, and children’s behavior toward the further development of an intervention to impact on the ability of after school programs to promote children’s adaptive functioning.

Teachers Supporting Teachers

Teachers supporting teachers in urban schools examined new strategies for improving effective instruction and social support for early career teachers working in urban low-income communities. A primary goal of the study was to develop and refine a professional development model designed to improve new teachers’ 1) effectiveness around the two strongest predictors of attrition – classroom management and engaging learners; and 2) connectedness to colleagues given the central role that cohesion, trust, and belongingness plays in teaching. This includes linking early career teachers with 1) Mentors (nominated by their peers) and a coach to provide intensive classroom support around classroom management and motivating learners, and 2) the larger network of teachers through participation in Professional Learning Community meetings. The goal of the study was to create a context in which early career urban teachers can overcome the major obstacles to teaching effectively and supporting positive outcomes for learners.

For more information on Teachers Supporting Teachers please click here.