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Innovative Community Academic Partnership (iCAP)

Project Title

1. Parental Responses to Teen Dating Violence: Protocol Develpment
2. Study on Homeless Housing and Supportive Services for Children and Families
3. An Implementation Project: Creating an Educational Advocacy Program
4. Integrated Model of Preventing Risk Health Behaviors among Adolescents
5. The Triple-A Project: Assessing and Augmenting Administration Skills in Nonprofits

Parental Responses to Teen Dating Violence: Protocol Develpment

Community Partner: Brighter Tomorrows
Faculty Partner: Beverly Black, Ph.D.

PROJECT OVERVIEW: Teen dating violence (TDV) is a significant public health problem in the United States that negatively impacts youths’ mental and physical well-being and can lead to adult abusive relationships. Youth rarely speak to adults or parents about their experiences with TDV due to concerns about their responses. Need: We know little about how parents actually respond to their children experiencing TDV but preliminary research suggests that they often respond in an unhelpful manner. We have little evidence informing us how parents can best respond to their adolescents about TDV. The long range goal of this study is to reduce TDV by assisting parents in effectively responding to TDV. Aim: The aim this research, is to: (1) gather information from parents about how they respond to adolescents when told about TDV, (2) gather information from youth about how they want parents to respond when approaching parents about incidences of TDV; and, (3) develop protocols which will assist parents of middle school youth and high school youth experiencing TDV to effectively respond when approached about TDV. Study Team: The PI has extensive experience related to TDV and its prevention.

PROJECT OUTCOMES: Major findings of this study indicate that parents want their children to talk to their children about teen dating violence (TDV) and parents feel confident that their children will communicate with them about TDV. However, generally, adolescents feel that they would not talk to their parents about TDV. Adolescents stated their parents asked too many questions, did not listen to them, exaggerated events, and blew everything out of proportion. They stated they wanted to keep things to themselves. Adolescents suggested that parents remain calm and take some time to think before responding to a child approaching them about TDV. Younger adolescents, especially those whose mothers had experienced abuse, were the most likely to state that perhaps they could talk to their mothers for help with TDV.

Distinct differences emerged in the way that mothers who had experienced an abusive relationship would approach possible TDV experiences with their children from mothers who had not experienced abusive relationships. Mothers who have experienced prior abuse felt that simply forbidding a child (male or female) from seeing an abusive partner would be an ineffective response. Mothers who have not experienced abusive relationships appeared much more aggressive in their responses to children approaching them about TDV. They often stated that they would directly contact the abuser's parents, limit or restrict their children's contact with the abuser, or contact legal authorities.

Unfortunately, due a delay in IRB approval, bad winter weather, and difficulty recruiting participants, we are still conducting focus groups. At this time, we have conducted 10 focus groups with parents and 9 focus groups with adolescents. We have begun to conduct preliminary analyses of both the qualitative and quantitative data and are in the very beginning phase of protocol development. Manuscripts will be forthcoming.

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Study on Homeless Housing and Supportive Services for Children and Families

Community Partner: Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance
Faculty Partners: Dr. Courtney Cronley

PROJECT OVERVIEW: This project investigates the effectiveness of an integrated housing/services approach in the context of a single site intervention. The question is whether a single site-integrated approach is most effective as a strategy for improving the well-being of homeless children and families. Currently, homeless housing and services providers are being overwhelmed with the increasing numbers of children and families which is accompanied by a continuous disintegration of those families.  Homelessness influences every facet of a child’s life — from conception to young adulthood. The experience of homelessness inhibits the physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and behavioral development of children.

The impact of homelessness begins well before a child is born. Children born into homelessness are more likely to have low birth weights and are at greater risk of death. Homelessness also exposes infants to environmental factors that can endanger their health. Because homeless families often have little access to health care, many homeless infants lack essential immunizations. The overwhelming majority of homeless parents are single women, many of whom were homeless themselves as children. Homeless women face many obstacles to healthy pregnancies, such as chemical abuse, chronic and acute health problems, and lack of prenatal care.

In northeast Texas there is a growing population of families with children who are homeless, in concert with fragmented access to and inconsistent quality of services. In fact, almost half of the families now served in transitional settings fail to realize permanent housing and many single parents lose care of their children soon after becoming homeless.

The aim of this project is: 

  • Conduct a first-time, university-based study on housing and support services currently provided.
  • Perform gap analysis and review of potential system change strategies in Dallas County, TX, for children and families who are homeless.
  • Conduct focus group and key informant interviews, analyzing secondary data, and conducting a cost-benefit analysis of emergency/transitional housing versus permanent supportive housing.
  • Create a strategic plan that incorporates the diverse perspectives of the community to document the needs and existing gaps in services, change strategies to improve access and outcomes for the existing network of housing and support services, and what resources are
  • Necessary to implement an integrated services model.

PROJECT OUTCOMES: The project has produced an assessment of the housing and support services that reveals important gaps in the interface between housing and support services, particularly with respect to the linkages between the availability of various housing types (i.e., temporary, permanent) and the support services that clients receive.  The services disconnect is founded in the lack of communication between housing and support service providers.  This can be mitigated by system change strategies around the formation of intermediary service provider councils that facilitate the communication between housing and service providers, most especially around integrated service plans and joint provider planning.  The focus group and key informant surveys provided exploratory results suggesting that permanent supportive housing is superior in providing social, psychological and psychosocial supports, as well as improved employment access and thus financial benefits.  The secondary data analysis is still in progress but preliminary results suggest that permanent housing brings with it long-term benefits that outweigh short-term expenses.

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An Implementation Project: Creating an Educational Advocacy Program

Community Partners: Transition Resource Action Center
Faculty Partners: Elissa Madden, Ph.D., Maria Scannapieco, Ph.D., Barbara Tobolowsky, Ph.D.

PROJECT OVERVIEW: Using the implementation science framework, the current project seeks to conduct a non-experimental exploratory study to understand more fully the experiences of foster youth alumni during their post-secondary years, and what services and supports they need to successfully enroll and persist in higher education.

This project will explore barriers experienced by foster care alumni, as well as factors that may have facilitated their academic achievement and ability to pursue and complete higher education. A growing body of evidence indicates that students who have aged out of the foster care system achieve a rate of enrollment and completion of post-secondary studies substantially below the rate for their peers. Only a small percentage (7 to13 percent) of foster care alumni enrolls in college or other higher education programs and even fewer graduate.

To allow for a more complete understanding of the post-secondary educational experiences of foster alumni, a mixed-method approach will be used. Data will be collected through interviews and surveys with foster youth alumni, as well as through focus groups with foster parents and other stakeholders, such as social workers, educators, and other professionals who have worked directly with this population. Cultural capital will be the theoretical lens used to examine the experience of former foster youth who pursue higher education.

The project aims to identify service gaps related to post-secondary education, and should culminate in an application for funding to implement an educational advocacy program at CitySquare – Transitional Resource Action Center (TRAC) to address these service gaps.

PROJECT OUTCOMES: Using the implementation science framework, this study sought to more fully understand the experiences of foster youth alumni during their post-secondary years, and what services and supports they need to successfully enroll and persist in higher education. While there is general consensus that post-secondary education is beneficial to former foster care youth, prior studies on the topic have largely focused on understanding post-secondary enrollment and completion rates for foster care alumni rather than examining what supports are needed to help these students succeed.

The primary goal of this study is to generate a strategic plan for the development and eventual implementation of an educational advocacy and assistance program at the Transition Resource Action Center (TRAC), a local agency that provides transitional services for youth aging out of foster care and for foster alumni between the ages of 14 and 24. 

A mixed-method approach (i.e., survey and interviews with foster alumni and focus groups with stakeholders) was used to capture a holistic understanding of the post-secondary educational needs and experiences of young adults in north Texas who have aged out of the foster care system (N=120).  While we are currently analyzing the data, preliminary analysis of the survey and interview findings indicates strong support for a post-secondary educational advocacy program in North Texas. Youth interviewed articulated the need for support in accessing necessary resources, as well as a desire for mentoring from students and foster alumni familiar with the challenges of attending higher education. 

When survey participants were asked about services that were most needed, alumni reported that their greatest academic-related needs included assistance with the following tasks: applying for financial aid, getting and paying for books and other supplies needed for school, applying for work study positions, accessing timely and accurate academic advising, and peer support/ mentoring from other students or foster alumni to help them acclimate to their new environment. 

Additionally, stakeholders who participated in the focus groups indicated a need for a post-secondary educational advocate at TRAC who would be available to address issues related to post-secondary readiness (e.g., assistance for youth without a diploma in obtaining a GED, assistance for youth with visiting colleges and completing applications). 

In mid-September, the evaluators will present the findings and strategic plan to key agency staff at TRAC.  This meeting will provide critical feedback from front-line staff that is needed to ensure that the proposed educational advocacy program is feasible and will adequately serve the needs of north Texas foster alumni.  In addition to these efforts, the evaluators are currently preparing a proposal for the American Educational Research Association (AERA) that will be submitted in July 2014, as well as the first of three planned manuscripts based on the findings.  Additional proposals will be submitted in the fall for the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) and in the spring for the Society of Social Work Research (SSWR) and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).  To date, several possible avenues for external funding have been identified and will be pursued in spring 2015. 

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 Integrated Model of Preventing Risk Health Behaviors among Adolescents

Community Partners: Mosaic Family Services
Faculty Partners: Sung Seek Moon, Ph.D., Eusebius Small, Ph.D., Schnavia Hatcher, Ph.D.

PROJECT OVERVIEW: This proposal aims to develop a youth violence, drug and truancy prevention, and sexual risk prevention program for 6th-7thgrade children in Dallas County. Specifically, it addresses developmental risk factors associated with youth violence, early aggression behavior, drug use, sexual risk behaviors and school truancy. Addressing risk behaviors is a complex, multifaceted issue. Scholars (e.g., Loeber, Farrington, Stouthamer-Loeber, & Van Kammen, 1998; Tolan & Gorman-Smith, 1998) have suggested that early onset of stubborn, defiant, and aggressive behavior is a precursor of later problem behaviors such as substance use. Additionally, substance abuse among the youth is a health risk factor that interferes with cognitive development and can impede school success, critical thought and reasoning. Diminished skills including cognition and non-cognition leads to academic and social difficulties in later years and creates a heightened risk for embarking on a life-course-persistent trajectory of criminal offending and violence behavior.

PROJECT OUTCOMES: The study addresses a long and serious problem of substance use, risky sexual behavior and truancy among vulnerable minority students. The main impact will be the prevention of onset stubborn, defiant and aggressive behavior, which is an important step to concretely address later problem behaviors. These behaviors often curtail the success of many minority students. Although the study is ongoing with only baseline data collected thus far, we anticipate the following:

Transitioning from elementary to middle school is an important period when decisions about alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs are made. Our study will provide useful information for prevention.

Because our study has a component of parents’ training to their children’s transitioning milestones, we hope to provide parents with useful tools to manage these transitions.

A significant aspect we incorporated in our study is the use of peer mentoring. We hope that peer mentoring will enable student leaders to exercise their natural leadership skills and provide the mentees the opportunity to transcend their obstacles.

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The Triple-A Project: Assessing and Augmenting Administration Skills in Nonprofits

Community Partner: All Children's Home, Fort Worth


Due to a looming shortage of appropriately trained nonprofit managers, we must search for alternative ways to ensure that the ever-growing need for human service executives, managers and supervisors is met in some way other than academic degree programs. The Triple-A Project is one approach that assesses and augments administration skills in existing workers. Using the CAN-DO Administrative Job Skills Inventory, ACH employees selected by the agency will be assessed and then receive customized training modules to increase the administration skill capacity of ACH. Employees will be randomly distributed into two cohorts and will have several rounds of assessments in order to best understand how well their training and use of skills is progressing. Evaluation of process and outcomes will ensure fidelity and tracking of anticipated outcomes. If this model proves successful, it is anticipated that additional agencies can be recruited and the Triple-A Project can become self-sustaining by offering training to human service organizations in the DFW area and beyond.

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