Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Community Tool Box Turns Twenty

THEory into ACTion
A Bulletin of New Developments in Community Psychology Practice 

December, 2013

The Community Tool Box Turns Twenty   
Bill Berkowitz, University of Massachusetts Lowell 

     This holiday edition of THEory into ACTion honors the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Community Tool Box (http://ctb.ku.edu). As readers know, these outreach bulletins focus on innovations in community practice. And the Tool Box continues to innovate, two decades after its launch in 1994. 

      To review the basics: The Community Tool Box provides information and guidance on community development and health.  Here’s some of what you will find among its thousands of pages of free instructional materials: 

        More than 300 how-to-do-it modules on a wide variety of community topics, ranging from training volunteers to lobbying decisionmakers, and from budget writing to multicultural collaboration 

       Quick-start Toolkits on 16 key community competencies  (sample titles: Creating and Maintaining Partnerships; Assessing Community Needs and Resources),  with detailed outlines of key action asks 

        16 Training Guides, paralleling the Toolkits, each with full lesson plans, participant guides, and interactive exercises

         A Troubleshooting Guide, with helpful advice for common problems a community worker might encounter

        A distinctive Ask an Advisor feature, where anyone can ask a question on community development and receive a personalized answer from an expert

      With four million unique visitors per year and growing, The Community Tool Box has now become a go-to resource for community workers around the world.  

      The Tool Box was started by Steve Fawcett and Jerry Schultz, community  psychologists at the University of Kansas, together with Vince Francisco, who’s now at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. It has since expanded to a national team with international partnerships, such as the Pan American Health Organization. The World Health Organization has also designated the Tool Box as a global Collaborating Center. 

      The Tool Box, though, is not resting on its laurels.  So this fall the entire site was redesigned, to make it simpler to navigate and use. It’s now more compatible with smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices.  Work is also proceeding toward completion of an Arabic translation, to complement the fully-translated Spanish version.  In addition, a drive is under way to build a long-term endowment.  The newly-designed Community Tool Box made its formal debut in October; those who haven’t visited the site recently are encouraged to check it out and test it for themselves. 

      But another near-term Tool Box goal is to increase its interactivity, and especially include contributions from leading community groups and organizations. In that way, the Tool Box can publicize the distinctive work of others to a larger, global community. (Users now come from over 100 different countries; a steadily increasing percentage of traffic now comes from outside the United States.) 

      What might those contributions be?  Basically, they would include community-building items of interest to a wider audience.  For example, users are invited to send in an item to the Tool Box blog; add to a growing collection of community success stories; share a community tip, tool, example, resource, or innovation; or, as a different idea, those groups with “action“ sections on their web sites might develop links to Tool Box content.  

      The Tool Box is also interested in other contributions or suggestions users and readers may have; they are invited to contact toolbox@ku.edu, or call (785) 864-0533.   Your own community-building content and your ideas will further strengthen community life. But another purpose can then be accomplished too: to strengthen a sense of community among all of us who do the critical work of community building with others. We can work together to achieve our common goals. 

This is one of a series of bulletins highlighting the use of community psychology in practice. Comments, suggestions, and questions are welcome. Please direct them to Bill Berkowitz at Bill_Berkowitz@uml.edu.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ask an Advisor: How to deal with 'challenging' partners

Ask an Advisor featured question, by Regina D. Langhout

      Ask an Advisor is a feature from the Community Tool Box in which anyone around the world seeking for advice regarding community work, could find a brief and personalized response. For this week’s post, we feature the following question:

QuestionHow do you deal with 'challenging' partners?

AnswerAs you note, working with others can be very challenging. I think different people would have different answers to this. For me, the answer has a lot to do with setting up goals and expectations at the beginning of the partnership. What seems to work for me is to have a conversation at the beginning of a partnership where we each discuss our values, goals, and the values and goals of our institutions (if we are representing them). We talk about where the similarities are and where there might be differences. It's also a good idea to talk about how you will handle conflict when it arises. This puts a lot on the table at the beginning and can lead to some really interesting conversations. It also normalizes conflict by pointing out that you know it will happen at some point. Then, when you are having challenges, you can return to this conversation and talk with your partners about what might be inconsistent with your values, or what might be getting in the way of you meeting your goals. Raise this conversation in a way that is consistent with how you agreed to deal with conflict.

You can also look here for other ideas: Maintaining Partnerships

I hope this helps and good luck with maintaining your partnership!


To submit a question about your community-based work to Ask an Advisor, please visit

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Black Friday's over, now it's time for Giving Tuesday

In the U.S., Black Friday is a holiday of sorts dedicated to the rampant consumerism that pretty much defines our nation. While there have been efforts to re-label this as a day dedicated to anti-consumerist sentiment, or to use it to draw attention to unfair labor practices, it is still overwhelmingly known as a day for shopping. And because the American appetite for post-Thanksgiving shopping insanity could not be sated with merely one day, Black Friday is now followed by a host of other Days With Names, such as Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Adding a new twist to this potentially tiresome tradition is a growing campaign to brand a new day: Giving Tuesday.

The #unselfie is another piece of the #GivingTuesday effort
This is how Giving Tuesday is described by those promoting it: "In the same way that retail stores take part in Black Friday, we want the giving community to come together for #GivingTuesday. We ask that partners create and commit to a project for/on #GivingTuesday and then help spread the word to their networks."

Giving Tuesday was launched in December 2012, and early evaluation comparing donations made in the U.S. on the first "Giving Tuesday" with those made the same day the previous year indicate it may be having a substantial impact on charitable giving. This year, part of the promotion includes trying to encourage people to post #unselfies, variations on the  self-centered photos that typically saturate social media, with a more altruistic bent.

Along with "Giving Tuesday," there is a similar effort to re-brand the Tuesday following Cyber Monday as "Fair Tuesday," dedicated to encourage fair trade / ethical gift giving. Those who want to combine ethical gift giving with charitable giving may be able to do so through various methods, including a relatively new site called ProBueno. Pro Bueno is all about giving people a forum to share pro bono services and goods. The twist is that these are also “por bueno,” in that people promise to share their skills in exchange for a donation to their favorite charity. So you can buy guitar lessons or order homemade pumpkin cookies while supporting nonprofit organizations.

Though you’re not really getting these services pro bono, they tend to cost less than similar services would otherwise (not quite as cheap as places like fiverr, but a good value nonetheless). Additionally, the fact that it is all being done for non-profits lends a sort of instant trustworthiness to the transaction. Those receiving services know that the donors have no selfish motives, while those donating services know that they’re able to contribute to their favorite charity by doing something that comes easily to them. The instant trust means that there’s not only a trade of human capital for economic capital, but also the production of social capital.

This site, and these various efforts, are not meant to foster large-scale change or  undo the damage wrought by a culture that puts money above humanity. However, to the extent that they enable an alternative vision of the "season of giving" than the countless media images of people lined up in front of big box stores to buy discount TVs, then I can only see it as a positive development. So, happy holidays, and happy #GivingTuesday to all. 

Gina Cardazone
University of Hawaii at Manoa 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Growing Up in the Shadows: How Unauthorized Status Puts Immigrant Youth at Risk

Growing Up in the Shadows: How Unauthorized Status Puts Immigrant Youth at Risk 

What are the implications of growing up in the shadows of our society?

In her article, the author explores the fates of over a million young people who live in the United States without formal documentation. Among other things, Dr. Suárez-Orozco discusses possible developmental implications and complications for unauthorized young people. The author goes further to provide suggested readings on the topic as well as a link to the APA’s “UNDOCUMENTED AMERICANS” video.

You can read this article on the Psychology Benefits Society Blog

Friday, November 8, 2013

Ask an Advisor: How to contact a policy maker

Ask an Advisor featured question, by Nate Israel

      Ask an Advisor is a feature from the Community Tool Box in which anyone around the world seeking for advice regarding community work, could find a brief and personalized response. For this week’s post, we feature the following question:

QuestionHello, I am taking a healthcare policy class and I would like to know how to contact a policy maker with regards to my policy issue/request. What office do I call on the local level to get an appointment with a policy maker. Thank you 

AnswerThis is a great question. We all want to be able to figure out how to make an impact, and talking to local policymakers is one potential way to make an impact in a local community. In order to get the most out of your interaction, there are some things you can do ahead of making contact. The first thing is to figure out to whom your policy perspective matters. Public health departments, particularly in large cities, are often tremendously varied in their responsibilities. Employees’ responsibilities often range from prevention to intervention, and the areas of concern may range from ensuring animal welfare to preventing cancer to administering publicly-funded hospitals. Understanding the structure of the department, and targeting your request for an audience to the person(s) for whom the policy is most relevant, will help insure that all parties gain from the interaction. The second is to be clear about what you are offering. Officials in policy capacities are often very considerably under-resourced. Be clear about what you are offering. For example, you may be offering direct feedback on a policy’s effects in the community, access to a previously unknown resource for implementing a policy, or a summary of information about the potential usefulness of a new policy in your community (among myriad possibilities). Once you have clarified your intended audience and your message, contacting the policy official is relatively easy. Nearly all public officials have their contact information available on the public website of the appropriate department. Alternately, you can call the department directly and ask for the person’s contact information. E-mail contact is often very useful; it allows you to succinctly introduce yourself and describe the nature of your preferred contact. It also allows you to forward along any materials germane to the meeting. This may be especially helpful if the policymaker is particularly pressed for time. All the best as you move forward with this.


To submit a question about your community-based work to Ask an Advisor, please visit

Monday, November 4, 2013

Shifting the Rhetoric to Action: A collaboration for community health

THEory into ACTion

A Bulletin of New Developments in Community Psychology Practice
November, 2013
Charles E. Sepers, Jr.                                                   Dawn X. Henderson
University of Kansas                                             Winston-Salem State University


Lately, there seems to be a lot of rhetoric on access to health care in the U.S. media and political landscape. Although rhetoric may create a sense of awareness about an issue, it does not move communities and larger systems towards change. This is where the guiding principles and strategies of community psychology take front stage, by shifting rhetoric into dialogue and dialogue into research and action.
For the past two years, the University of Kansas Work Group for Community Health and Development has been involved in a collaborative project to address ways to improve community health in Douglas County, Kansas. A team of faculty and graduate students (including Christina Holt, Associate Director for Community Tool Box Services; Dr. Vicki Collie-Akers, Associate Director for Health Promotion Research; and Chuck Sepers, graduate student) have worked in partnership with members from the Lawrence-Douglas Health Department and other local organizations to engage Douglas County stakeholders and residents in understanding the top needs and concerns in Douglas County. 
The collaborative was guided by a collaborative model for communitychange and improvement and purposely engages stakeholders in understanding barriers to healthy communities and identifying assets to support community change. A university-community partnership (Dr. Vicki Collie-Akers, Associate Director of Health Promotion Research, worked with Charles Bryan the Community Health Planner from the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department) led to the development of the initial community concerns survey, completed by more than 1,300 county residents. Five key issues were identified:
·         Lack of access to affordable healthy foods
·         Insufficient access to health care and other services
·         Poverty in association with limited job opportunities/limited access to safe and affordable housing
·         Inadequate recognition of mental health issues and access to mental health services
·         Lack of physical activity

Working groups comprised of more than 35 community stakeholders from sectors including schools, parks and recreation, business, faith communities, non-profit organizations, universities, and grassroots volunteers were then convened around each issue. For each priority area, stakeholders engaged in “naming” and “framing” the issues, and developed a series of goals and measurable outcomes that would serve as important evaluative milestones. The work groups also identified and adapted evidence-based strategies for the local community. The project reflects the guiding principles of community psychology by engaging stakeholders across multi-settings and voices of residents (elderly, youth, working class, etc.) to work collaboratively in planning research and action.

A community health plan was developed to disseminate findings and promote a “declaration of commitment” among partners and community stakeholders to achieve project goals. Characteristics of the improvement plan include:

·         Community Health Assessment: The use of a preliminary health assessment prior to the planning process served as an important step for addressing issues that mattered to those within the community. Through this process, community members were actively involved in decision making.

·         University-Community Partnership: There was a relationship between two organizations: The University of Kansas Work Group for Community Health and Development, and the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.  The partnership, known as an Academic Health Department, is analogous to a “teaching hospital” in the medical context. This formalized partnership enhances bidirectional learning between both organizations through collaboration, training, and resource sharing. The Academic Health Department model aims to strengthen the link between research and practice.

·         Use of Multi-Methods: The initial community concerns survey was administered and completed by over 1,300 community members (Collie-Akers & Holt, 2012). This was followed by focus groups with key stakeholders across 11 sites and interviews with nearly 30 key informants across Douglas County.  A PhotoVoice project was conducted with Douglas County youth to obtain their perspectives on factors that contribute to or detract from a health community and recommendations.

This collaboration for community health reflects the process of moving dialogue into research and action as diverse community partners work together to move towards a healthier Douglas County.

Works Cited:

Collie-Akers, V., & Holt, C. (2012). Douglas County Community Health Report.  University of Kansas Work Group for Community Health and Development.

This is one of a series of bulletins highlighting the use of community psychology in practice. Comments, suggestions, and questions are welcome. Please direct them to Bill Berkowitz at Bill_Berkowitz@uml.edu.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tapping our passion for addressing systemic racism and social justice:

Keeping your coalitions going after your grant money runs out

Tom Wolff, Tom Wolff & Associates,  Amherst MA.

Over my forty years in the nonprofit world I have seen many multi-site coalition efforts come and go. They rise and fall with the funding whims/fads of government whether it is substance abuse, violence prevention, teen pregnancy prevention etc. I’ve never seen one of these multi- site networks of coalitions sustain themselves without either new funding or the support of the original lead organization.

The New England Racial Justice and Health Equity is the exception, so it is story worth telling.
The original network of Health Equity and Racial Justice coalitions was created by CDC REACH (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health) grants awarded to the Boston Public Health Commission’s Center for Health Equity and Racial Justice. The BPHC Center funded efforts at 13 sites across New England from Manchester NH to Springfield MA and Bridgeport Ct and obviously in the Boston area as well. I was a consultant/trainer to the Center and many of the New England sites over the five years of funding (See below for references to the Center’s work and to my writing about their work).

The core approach of addressing health equity was through a model (see chart) that acknowledges the critical role of systemic racism in health outcomes.


The goals of the coalitions were to create policy changes to address systemic racism in the social determinants of health (exs. food access, educational disparities).

The issue of racism was central to these efforts from the start. For example the first BPHC brochure focused on breast and cervical cancer in Black women. The brochure language was explicit: “If you are a Black woman living in Boston and you have a greater chance of dying from breast or cervical cancer than a White woman. Why? Racism may play a key role in determining your health status. It may affect your access to health services, the kind of treatment you get and how much stress your body endures”.
Based on this health equity framework each team at all 13 sites went thru anti-racism training and learned to re-frame their community health issues in racial justice /health equity terms. This led to struggles to come to grips with racism in both their community and in themselves regardless of their racial and ethnic identity. Over time each community faced significant ‘push back” from some forces in the community to the explicit focus on and use of the term ‘racism’. In fact,  most efforts to address health disparities in the U.S. avoid explicitly using this term and instead create programs that ‘blame the victim’ i.e address health disparities in diabetes in Black men by running programs for Black men on eating well.

By acknowledging that racism is the core issue in health disparities, we stirred the social justice roots of the staff and communities at the sites. This was powerful enough to keep the discussion going after the money ran out. At the last meeting before the funding ran out in October 2012, the leaders and staff from many communities expressed the desire to keep meeting. The CDC no longer was providing money, and the BPHC being a city health department could not take responsibility for organizing a New England wide group; but the group was determined. There was a strong desire to keep the discussion of race and the struggle for social justice alive.
So we named ourselves the New England Racial Justice and Health Equity Coalition and have kept meeting quarterly on a purely voluntary basis. One site acts as host for each meeting and designs the meeting, and provides the food. Sometimes if the site is short of resources we pass the hat to cover food costs.

At the first meeting we did ‘push back circles” a process designed by one site to allow the group to role play real examples where they experienced difficult ‘push back’ around racism from their community. However, this time in the role play they have three coaches to help them with feeling supported, finding the language to respond, and managing their emotions. Everyone found the experience very helpful and brought their learning back to their communities.

This process of quarterly meetings has now lasted for a full year. Part of each meeting is now spent in ‘affinity’ groups with the White participants, and communities of Color meeting separately for part of the meeting. This allows for a different level of discussion on race than usually occurs in mixed groups. As a White man I have certainly found this approach allows me to explore how I can use my White privilege to best advantage in moving this work forward without making things worse (see the work of  Tim Wise as an outstanding example of understanding white privilege http://www.timwise.org/).

I have learned many things in the process of this experience. The lesson around sustainability seems to be that when we tap into people’s strong passions for social justice we are able to keep many people at the table even when the money has disappeared. Thus, we have another great reason to keep issues of social justice high on our agenda.
After the Trayvon Martin trial there was a national outcry for discussions of race in America. Is there a place for Community Psychology in those discussions? And for tackling the work on health equity and racial justice through a transformative change lens?    

The Center for Health Equity and Social Justice’s work has been published and is available at: http://www.bphc.org/chesj/Pages/default.aspx

I have also written about this work (http://www.tomwolff.com/collaborative-solutions-newsletter-summer-10.htm), and have had articles and videos published in the Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice: http://www.gjcpp.org/en/article.php?issue=14&article=68
For more of Tom Wolff’s blogs and newsletters www.tomwolff.com

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A new look for the Community Tool Box!

The Community Tool Box team just launched a new site, full of tools to change our world. If you’re not yet familiar with the Tool Box, it contains over 7,000 pages of practical information for skills such as those related to community assessment, strategic planning, intervention, evaluation, advocacy, and sustainability. The Tool Box is now used by over 4.4 million unique users from 230 countries worldwide, and builds the skills of professionals and local leaders working collaboratively to improve socially-important issues.
Exciting updates to the Tool Box include:
  • Responsive design: fits mobile devices and tablets
  • Easier navigation
  • Resources available in English, Spanish, and now Arabic

Visit the new Tool Box and share what you think - on Facebook, Twitter, or via toolbox@ku.edu 

Learn more about the Tool Box


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Reconciliation of Guilt and Grief – The Contributions of Ezer Kang in Uncovering Unspoken Animosity in Rwanda

THEory into ACTion

A Bulletin of New Developments in Community Psychology Practice 
October, 2013
By Michael Lemke

Reconciliation of Guilt and Grief – The Contributions of Ezer Kang in Uncovering Unspoken Animosity in Rwanda

The principles and values of Community Psychology – in particular, collaboration – can serve as powerful driving forces behind improving the lives of members of diverse communities around the world, even those with brutal pasts.  The ideological violence that swept the nation of Rwanda in 1994 resulted in extreme acts of brutality and great loss of life; however, the origins of the division between the Hutus and Tutsis had existed for decades prior to the outbreak of extreme violence.  Reconciliation between the two groups is of dire importance, as failing to mitigate the division and discord between these two groups could result in negative attitudes being passed across generations and persistently threaten the stability of Rwanda.  As may be expected, reconciliation between perpetrators and victims is an extremely difficult task, and one that is made even more difficult because there are strict laws that forbid any expressions that are deemed “genocide ideology,” thus potentially constraining open and honest dialogue.  Despite the difficulty task and its challenges, reconciliation is critical in moving the country forward.

      One group that has focused on reconciliation efforts is Christian Action for Reconciliation and Social Assistance (CARSA).  CARSA is a faith-based social justice organization based in Kigali, Rwanda, and has developed innovative programs for survivors of the 1994 genocide events.  This group specializes on the youth of Rwanda, fighting against the ideologies of segregation and divisionism.  The focal point of their work is assisting perpetrators of the genocide events in reintegrate into their communities following their release from prison.  Part of this effort includes community reconciliation workshops, where perpetrators and victims who live in the same districts of Kigali are brought together to attempt reconciliation.  However, generating honest dialogue between both parties may conflict with the strict laws about expressing “genocide ideology.”

      Dr. Ezer Kang of Wheaton College was a visiting student intern in Kigali in August of 2012 when he met Christophe Mbonyingabo, executive director of CARSA.  He observed the community reconciliation workshops firsthand, and was overwhelmed by the challenges faced in processing guilt for perpetrators and grief for victims.  Discussion between Dr. Kang and Mr. Mbonyingabo also revealed concern about the potential for victims to continue to harbor animosity and prejudice toward their perpetrators that, due to the legal repercussions, could not be publicly acknowledged.  

      In response to these concerns, Dr. Kang and Mr. Mbonyingabo engaged in a collaborative research effort to uncover the relationship between types of exposure to the genocide events in 1994 and implicit prejudice and negative stereotypes of perpetrators, and, if a significant relationship is found, if there is a difference based on gender or based on whether individuals participated in the community reconciliation workshops.  Through a 1-year cross-sectional study of approximately 400 genocide survivors living in Rwanda, and with the help of funds from SCRA through the Community Mini-Grant program, this research partnership hopes to answer these questions that are important to the reconciliation process.

      One of the principles of Community Psychology that is apparent in this effort is the use of community research and action as an active collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and community members.  Such research is undertaken to serve the community members directly concerned, and therefore should be guided by these community members and include their active participation.  A critical part of this task is the active collaboration that exists between Dr. Kang and the researchers, practitioners, and community members in Rwanda.  The research questions that this study seeks to answer originate directly from the lived experiences of Kigali community members, and the experience of listening to victims and perpetrators at the table together and the discussions with Mr. Mbonyingabo were vital to the development and implementation of the study itself.  CARSA is the lead organization in this project, and the role of Dr. Kang has been to provide his expertise in the methodological aspects and the data analysis.  The results of this approach have been powerful.  Thus far, the active collaboration with community partners has been, according to Dr. Kang, “an extraordinarily productive and personally meaningful collaboration.”

      The mission and objectives of the CARSA organization further exemplify the power of the Community Psychology principle of collaboration.  CARSA’s overall objective is national reconstruction by promoting citizens’ attitudes and cooperative behavior as a part of holistic development.  Other organizations in Rwanda share a similar mission of fighting against ideologies of segregation and divisionism, yet focus on different aspects of the task or different segments of the population.  CARSA views these other organizations and considers collaboration to be “indispensable since it is difficult to work for holist development in isolation.”   

      Engagement with CARSA has been deeply meaningful to Dr. Kang.  He has been able to witness academic principles be applied with great success in a community with exceedingly unique and difficult challenges.  Such work can serve as an example of the power of Community Psychology to create change in diverse and challenging contexts.  It is hoped that this work will contribute to efforts to ensure that the horrors of the past are not repeated.  

      If you’re interested to learn more, the work of CARSA has been highlighted in the film, “As We Forgive” here: http://www.asweforgivemovie.com/

This is part of a series of bulletins highlighting the use of community psychology in practice. Comments, suggestions, and questions are welcome. Please direct them to Bill Berkowitz at Bill_Berkowitz@uml.edu.  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sequestration and the Government Shutdown

The sequestration continues to impact the well-being of US citizens through its shaping of the spending levels currently under negotiation in the House and Senate. An agreement on how to fund the government was not reached prior to midnight last night, and we now must endure a government shutdown.

While 8 in 10 Americans believe that a government shutdown is an unacceptable outcome, many members of the House are using this shutdown as leverage to repeal certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, the Senate has consistently rejected House Bills that include provisions related to the ACA. A visual representation of the negotiations between the House and Senate can be found here.

Unfortunately, the immediate impacts of a government shutdown are not directly endured by those who caused it (members of Congress and the Senate are still paid). Over 800,000 individuals will be involuntarily furloughed; services for Veterans and individuals who receive Social Security will be disrupted; national parks will be closed. These represent just a few of the consequences of government shutdown; more can be found here.

Even if the House and Senate reach an agreement, their agreement will most likely preserve the sequestration cuts. If these cuts are preserved now, there is little chance that they will be replaced with a more sensible solution within the next year.

As the sequestration began months ago, it is worth remembering that these cuts were never meant to be an ideal solution to curb spending. In fact, they were intentionally constructed as incentive to motivate the Supercommittee to agree on a more rational solution to reduce the deficit. Unfortunately for US citizens who have since lost access to housing, meals, and work, this tactic failed and the sequestration was enacted.

A recent article in the Atlantic aptly stated, “A rational political system would find a way to bring budget discipline without endangering these areas, along with food safety, homeland security, national defense, the air-traffic system, and on and on. Instead we are careening toward economic disruption triggered by outrageous demands that jeopardize the economy and endanger the most vulnerable among us. Shameful is the only way to describe it.”

Josh Gordon, policy director at the Concord Coalition, made a similar observation in a recent CNBC article, stating, “You've never come out of a recession with such dramatic deficit reductions. But very little if any of the short-term deficit reduction is in any way related to preparing for the long-term challenges. It's really bad fiscal policy."

Recent negotiations serve as an unfortunate reminder of the direct and indirect effects of the sequestration. The consequences of the government shutdown, coupled with program cuts caused by the sequestration, will even more acutely impact the welfare of our fellow citizens.

Madison Sunnquist (msunnqui@depaul.edu)
Sarah Callahan
Lenny Jason

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to Talk to Your Kids about Racism in a Post-Trayvon World

How to Talk to Your Kids about Racism in a Post-Trayvon World

In her blog, the author explores strategies for parents of all races and ethnicities to talk to their children about racism and discrimination in the wake of shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Dr. Bryant-Davis suggests that when having conversations to prepare children for incidents of racism, among other things, parents need to be mindful of emotional and cognitive developmental differences. The author goes further to provide suggestions for important factors to keep in mind when having such conversations with children.

You can read this article on the Psychology Benefits Society Blog

Saturday, September 14, 2013

DePaul Family and Community Services Clinic Responds to the Needs of Chicago-area

Volume 2, Number 8                                                                         September, 2013

THEory into ACTion
A Bulletin of New Developments in Community Psychology Practice

DEPAUL FAMILY AND COMMUNITY SERVICES – “Strengthening and empowering families and communities through innovative, evidenced-based, community-oriented services and the training of culturally-competent, socially responsible professionals.”

DePaul Family and Community Services Clinic Responds to the Needs of Chicago-area
by Orson Morrison, Psy.D. and Olya Glantsman, Ph.D.

The staggering exposure of Chicago’s youth to trauma and violence is well documented. From 2008 to 2012, more than 530 youth were killed in Chicago; nearly 80% of the homicides occurred within 22 African-American or Latino community areas, located in the South, Southwest, and West segments of the city. In 2010, 1,109 school-aged youth were shot, and 216 of those were killed. Nearly half of Chicago’s homicide victims are young people aged 10–25. In the Chicago Youth Development Study, 80% of inner-city teen boys reported exposure to violence. In the “Illinois Infant Mental Health Survey: Findings and Recommendations” (Gilkerson and Cutler), nearly 50% of inner-city adolescents demonstrated signs and symptoms of depression. These results are in line with the findings of the National Center for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder showing that more than 40% of children exposed to violence show symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

DePaul Family and Community Services (DePaul FCS) continues to engage with community partners such as Community Youth Development Institute (CYDI) to design interventions that address the urgent trauma-related needs our youth, families, and communities face each day. Approximately 95% of registered clients reported either having been the victim of a violent physical assault or directly witnessing a violent physical assault during their childhood/adolescence, under-scoring the significant impact of trauma in the development and overall functioning of these youth.  Employing many principle of Community Psychology, DePaul FCS strives to impact the entire school system by providing professional consultation with teaching staff and administration on the impact of trauma on students’ development and learning and providing individual students and their families trauma-informed behavioral-health services. This effort, to go out into the schools and communities, is something that is very unique about DePaul in comparison to other training sites and truly embodies Community Psychology’s principles of ecological perspective and participatory approach. 

Service History

DePaul FCS has been in existence since 1974 when the National Institute of Mental Health, State of Illinois Department of Mental Health, and DePaul University joined in an agreement to fund a new community mental health center to serve children and families with mental health issues living in the near north area of Chicago, Illinois. Beginning in 1998, a grant from the Department of Human Services (DHS) under the Urban System of Care program allowed DePaul FCS to expand programming including opening two satellite offices located in close proximity to Cabrini-Green and Lathrop Homes (Chicago public housing developments). Since that time, DePaul FCS has continued to embrace the model of providing flexible, community-based interventions to some of the most in-need communities in the Chicago area. 

Program Services

  • Individual and Family Counseling
  • Group-Based Interventions
  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)
  • Psychological Testing/School Observations
  • Psychiatry, Medication Evaluation and Medication Monitoring
  • Professional Development/Continuing Education

Awards and Honors

In 2005, DePaul FCS’s community based work was recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA) when DePaul FCS received the national Harry V. McNeill Memorial Award for Innovative Community Mental Health.

DePaul FCS also functions as a training center for the clinical psychology graduate program at DePaul University, and all students are trained for at least one year of their clinical practica through DePaul FCS.  In 2006, the APA named the DePaul University Clinical Psychology doctoral program as an Outstanding Training Program in the area of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. As part of this award, DePaul FCS was particularly singled out as providing students with strong training in delivering effective services to underserved populations (e.g., low-income, urban youth) and with training in the area of diversity.  In 2007, APA selected DePaul’s Clinical Psychology program as one of three Richard M. Suinn Minority Achievement Award winners.  This award honored DePaul for its percentage of ethnic minority students and faculty, and its active efforts to promote diversity in clinical psychology.

When interviewed about the clinic, the center’s director, Orson Morrison, said: “DePaul FCS embodies the Vincentian values of social justice and empowerment. We are deeply committed to partnering with the community and other child and family systems to address issues and needs that have been identified by them. We value working in natural settings in the community which improves access to services, provides a contextual understanding of our clients, and facilitates the transfer and application of knowledge gained over the course of our work with clients.”

When asked about their experiences at the FCS, many graduate students commented on the valuable experiences they have had at the clinic and the center’s unique embodiment of Community Psychology principles. For example, Abby Brown, an advanced Clinical-Community graduate student at DePaul stated: “The clinical training experience I have received at FCS has been grounded in everything I value as a budding clinical-community psychologist: empowerment, culturally-appropriate interventions, and social justice.” Another advanced Clinical-Community graduate student, Meredyth Evans, had this to say about the center: “My time as an extern at DePaul Family and Community Services was a highly valuable experience. It taught me that therapy work can be much more than meeting with a child and her family in an office every week. It taught me that it can and should also involve understanding the broader communities in which the children and their families live in, including their neighborhoods, and their schools. For instance, I had the opportunity to see some of my clients in their schools every week, which allowed me the chance to regularly meet and consult with their teachers, school counselors and others who impact their lives on a daily basis. Overall, my time at [DePaul’s FCS] trained me to think beyond the individual when providing effective treatment and support to our clients, by fostering the continued development of my cultural awareness and competency and through reflection and understanding of the broader systems that our clients live in.”

For more information on DePaul Family and Community Services contact:

Orson Morrison, Psy.D.
DePaul Family and Community Services
2219 N. Kenmore Ave. Suite 300
Chicago, IL 60614