Urban Youth Trauma Center Programs

Promoting Resilience among Youth and Families Affected by Community Violence Through Leadership, Collaboration, and Action

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Urban Youth Trauma Center Programs



YOUTH-CAN: Youth Overcoming Urban Trauma and Healing: A Community Action Network

YOUTH-CAN is a collaborative community-based violence prevention training program that was developed by UYTC with SAMHSA/NCTSN funds to improve the community’s ability to reduce and prevent violence and its impact on urban youth and families. Training and consultation on the YOUTH-CAN model centers on 1) raising awareness about the causes, links, and effects of trauma and CV; 2) promoting the use of best practices for violence prevention and trauma-informed care; 3) promoting participant-level activation and responsiveness to address CV; and 4) facilitating network, agency, and individual collaborations to magnify individual efforts. Based on a socioecological model for violence prevention, YOUTH-CAN provides a comprehensive framework for applying Best Practices for violence prevention including: 1) identifying and supporting youth affected by trauma and CV, 2) developing safe, stable, and nurturing relationships between youth and their parents/caregivers; 3) developing prosocial life skills in youth; 4) promoting safe environments and activities in the community; and 5) changing cultural and social norms that promote violence.


I-CARE: Integrated Care for Adolescents Struggling with Trauma Stress and Substance Abuse

I-CARE is a community-based program designed for 13-17 year olds who are having difficulties regulating emotions resulting from traumatic experiences and environmental stress, and who are also having problems with substance abuse. This integrated approach includes strategies from empirically supported treatment programs for traumatic stress as well as substance abuse problems and is adapted from the Trauma Systems Therapy (TST) approach. Funded by SAMHSA/NCTSN, this program is adapted from an existing NCTSN trauma treatment program for children and adolescents that addresses emotional regulation and social/environmental factors among traumatized youth. With the direction of Dr. Liza Suarez, this integrated treatment program incorporates established intervention strategies targeting both substance abuse and traumatic stress which have been previously empirically validated with adolescents, including cognitive behavior therapy, motivational interviewing, and family-focused behavioral and systemic interventions. The use of integrative treatment models to support families of youth with co-occurring symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and substance use problems continues to be shown as a successful approach for reducing risk behaviors and symptoms of psychopathology.

Strong Families


STRONG Families: Strengths for Trauma Resilience – Overcoming N’ Growing

STRONG Families is a family systems-based intervention for youth with traumatic stress and co-occurring disruptive behavior problems stemming from community violence exposure. With the direction of Dr. Jaleel Abdul-Adil, this strengths-based approach has been developed for urban, ethnically diverse families with youth between the ages of 11-16 who have been impacted by community violence and are exhibiting disruptive behavior. The manualized intervention includes modules on psychoeducation about traumatic stress and disruptive behavior, emotion recognition and expression, cognitive coping and processing, behavior management and parenting skills, family communication and problem-solving, and trauma narratives in the context of community violence exposure. In addition, STRONG Families has been adapted to help meet the needs of juvenile justice involved youth, faith-based communities, and families with complex-trauma exposure and traumatic grief.

Hip Hop Heals


Hip-Hop HEALS: Helping Everyone Achieve Liberation and Success

Hip-Hop HEALS (H3) was developed to support the psychosocial development of contemporary urban youth who are attracted to, and influenced by, modern Rap music and related Hip-Hop culture. This program is an adaptation of the STRONG Families intervention and incorporates the use of selected and strategic segments of modern Rap music, Hip-Hop culture, and popular youth media. Guided by Dr. Jaleel Abdul-Adil’s extensive experiences with Rap/Hip-Hop and other media materials, this program has been systematically constructed to provide a culturally sensitive approach to mainstream mental health programs and directly addresses the interests and experiences of urban youth of color. Hip Hop HEALS builds on the STRONG Families protocol by adding two key components: critical consciousness and media literacy. Critical consciousness helps youth to reevaluate disruptive, violent and counterproductive behavior that is often glamorized in television, movies, music, and peer culture. Likewise, media literacy gives youth the ability to access, analyze, and evaluate content so that they are better able to understand the complex messages that are presented in various forms of media.

Safe First Steps Early Childhood Trauma Recovery Program


Safe First Steps Early Childhood Trauma Recovery Program

Safe First Steps was created by clinical child psychologist, Dr. Lynda Gibson to support children experiencing chronic community violence and trauma exposure. By partnering with schools and other child-focused agencies, we aim to share information with child providers, school staff, and families about the areas of child development that are impacted by trauma, and the strategies that can be implemented to reduce re-traumatization and promote recovery. The Safe First Steps training and consultation program explores strategies for building a trauma-informed school or agency, how to reduce secondary traumatic stress among early childhood providers and school staff, and strategies for increasing collaboration with other service providers and support for families.



TACTIC: Total Access Collaborative for Trauma Informed Care

The Total Access Collaborative for Trauma Informed Care (TACTIC) project aims to bring together law enforcement, schools and mental health services in the Park Forest community in order to increase the workforce’s ability to recognize, identify, connect, and provide services to children and adolescents impacted by trauma and violence. The program is funded through the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority’s Illinois Heals program. Based on a collaborative systems of care model, the current TACTIC partners include the UIC Urban Youth Trauma Center (UYTC), Park Forest Police Department, Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163, Rich Township High School District 227, and Aunt Martha’s Health and Wellness. The four goals of the TACTIC are to: (1) coordinate services across systems, (2) recognize children and youth who are victims of trauma, (3) connect youth victims and their families to resources and services, and (4) engage victimized youth in services.


YVPE: Youth Violence Prevention Engagement

The Youth Violence Prevention Engagement (YVPE) curriculum is a four-week, 16-hour program for juveniles found liable in municipal hearings of committing non-serious offenses. Developed by Dr. Liza Suarez and Park Forest Police Department (PFPD) Community Engagement Coordinator Rachel Wax, this program offers a restorative approach to court-mandated requirements of community service and provides youth with 1) increased awareness about the causes of violence, impacts of trauma, and the factors that promote resiliency; 2) the opportunity to learn and practice critical skills, including goal setting, decision making, conflict resolution, assertiveness, safety planning, and addressing beliefs that support violence; and 3) the opportunity to build supportive relationships with group facilitators and local law enforcement.


YVPES-C: Violence Prevention Engagement and Support for Caregivers

Youth Violence Prevention Engagement and Support for Caregivers (YVPES-C) is a seven-session curriculum that was developed by UYTC in collaboration with Children’s Institute to promote open and honest conversations with parents and other caregivers about trauma, community violence, and safety. The information included in this curriculum is designed for caregivers as well as any other person who cares for youth in a community impacted by violence and trauma. Individuals who participate in the YVPES-C program will gain: 1) increased awareness about the causes of violence, impacts of trauma, and the factors that promote resiliency; 2) parenting skills including communication, consistency, limit setting, creating safe spaces, and modeling non-violence; and 3) the opportunity to build supportive relationships with other caregivers in the community. This curriculum builds on the principals of the Urban Youth Trauma Center’s YOUTH-CAN initiative by focusing on how trauma and violence affect youth, the importance of building strong and trusting relationships, why it’s important to master skills and build a sense of self-agency, and how to recognize messages that support violence and be a part of changing them.