Case Studies

Saint Anthony Hospital - Adults and Children Together (ACT) Against Violence

Chicago, IL

Overview
Adults and Children Together (ACT) Against Violence is an education series developed by the American Psychological Association for parents of children under age eight to promote parents raising safe kids. The goal of the 10-week series is to strengthen families by teaching positive parenting techniques and creating safe, nurturing, and healthy environments to protect children from violence. Child care is available, and families are provided resources to teach children nonviolent conflict resolution. Saint Anthony Hospital (SAH) has held ACT in Little Village since 2009 and in North Lawndale since 2011. Parents view their ACT group as a neutral outlet for sharing their parenting concerns and experiences with other parents. Many parents open up and share – sometimes for the first time – painful and traumatic experiences from their own childhoods.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) identified violence and trauma as significant health issues, reinforced by a 2014 report that found high levels of neighborhood violence, safety concerns, mothers’ exposure to domestic violence and children’s exposure to harsh parenting in low-income, vulnerable families. The report found that this violence becomes a self-reinforcing system, with neighborhood violence being associated with domestic violence, domestic violence being associated with harsh parenting, and, harsh parenting being associated with aggressive behavior in children. RWJF recommends culturally relevant violence-reduction programs, including programs targeted to African-American families (at higher risk for community violence) and Latina immigrant mothers whose perceptions of neighborhood safety are disproportionately negative.

Impact

Since 2009, more than 860 parents and children have participated in the ACT program. SAH hosts family nights to maintain the social network of the groups, and all previous participants are invited to attend. On average, 28 to 35 families attend each family night. Four series of ACT sessions were held in FY2016; a total of 131 participants attended, including family nights. Results from pre- and post-surveys included: 53 percent of parents reported less frequency in using verbal aggression when their children did something they did not like; 69 percent reported less frequency in using physical aggression when their children misbehaved; and 60 percent reported controlling their anger more frequently.

Lessons Learned

ACT was originally delivered in the Little Village (Latino) community. As the program was expanded into the North Lawndale (African-American) community, program leaders learned that the needs and preferences of this community are different and the program required adjustment. Both programs follow the same curriculum, but the North Lawndale groups tend to experience greater success using a more individualized approach with one-on-one discussions versus the traditional larger group discussion setting used in South Lawndale’s Little Village.

Future Goals

Future goals for ACT include a strategic, continued expansion with other partners to promote parenting classes and increase community exposure to violence-prevention education. Program leaders plan to modify the next phase of this program for youth in fifth through eighth grade, called Adolescent and Parent Education (APE), so that it can be replicated across the community and available to all members who have completed the ACT program.

Contact: Bernadette O’Shea
Vice President/Chief Development Officer
Telephone: 773-484-4259
Email: boshea@sahchicago.org


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