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THEory into ACTion: Addressing the Needs of Violence-Exposed Youth in Chicago

Sad African American boy

“THEory into ACTion” is a series of cross posts from APA Division 27’s Community Psychology Practice Council blog. “THEory into ACTion” sheds light on community psychologists making positive change in the field. This cross post focuses on the services provided by the DePaul Family and Community Services Clinic to schools serving Chicago-area youth exposed to violence and trauma.

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

By Orson Morrison, PsyD and Olya Glantsman, PhD

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 principles 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.

Read the full post here

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