Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Helen Bader School of Social Welfare announced today a new joint effort, the Institute for Child and Family Well-Being, an academic-community partnership to improve the lives of children and families facing complex challenges such as violence, incarceration or extreme poverty. The Institute comprises three core service areas: designing and implementing effective programs, conducting cutting-edge research and evaluation, and promoting change through policy and advocacy.
This work is critical because nearly one third of children in Milwaukee (30.5 percent) have had at least two adverse childhood experiences – such as maltreatment, neglect, violence or extreme poverty – which is significantly higher than the national average of 22.6 percent (Data Resource Center for Child & Adolescent Health). In fact, there are enough kids in Milwaukee with two or more adverse childhood experiences to fill Miller Park, with another 6,000 waiting in line. Research has proven that childhood adversity actually interrupts kids’ brain development, causing increased likelihood of mental health problems, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency and teen pregnancy, in addition to poor long-term health outcomes and decreased academic achievement, which can lead to long-term employability issues.
“Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s vision is that Wisconsin children will be the healthiest in the nation. But healthy doesn’t just mean that they aren’t sick or hurt. It means that they have the medical, emotional and social support systems and resources necessary to reach their full potential. The new Institute for Child and Family Well-Being will help us do just that,” said Peggy Troy, CEO of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. “At Children’s, treating kids is our life’s mission. We’re thankful for the continued support of our partners like UWM, who help ensure that every kid receives the best care possible.”
“The launch of the Institute for Child and Family Well-Being (ICFW) opens the door to a new day of partnership with significant societal impact. The work of the ICFW will extend far beyond the walls of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin,” said Chancellor Mark Mone, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “This collaborative partnership reaches into the homes and schools of our communities with social impacts that span the region. Equally important is the engaged research that will direct practices, programs, and policies that promote health and well-being. Together, we are transforming lives.”
Early interventions – which will be a key part of the work being done at the Institute – can mitigate the consequences of childhood adversity by helping kids develop stable, caring relationships with parents and guardians, which are essential for healthy development. It is generally understood that it takes an average of 17 years for research evidence to reach clinical practice. The Institute’s academic-community partnership model will help accelerate the speed with which research on effective interventions is translated to clinical practices that can be utilized by Children’s Hospital practitioners.
One example of an effective intervention that is currently being put into clinical practice by Children’s Hospital is Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), an evidence-based intervention that works with parents and children to decrease a child’s oppositional behavior (tantrums, hitting, biting, etc) while also increasing a parent’s skill and ability to cope with these behaviors. It places emphasis on improving the quality of the parent-child relationship and changing parent-child interaction patterns, to reduce parenting stress and child mental health difficulties such as aggression, acting out and ADHD. Treatment averages 12-18 sessions, but benefits typically emerge quickly and are lasting, with effects sustained for years after the intervention. Expanding the availability of and access to PCIT, as well as other evidence-based interventions, will be a key focus of the Institute.
The Institute will also provide training, consultation and technical assistance to help human service agencies implement and replicate best practices for supporting children and families who are exposed to significant adversity. On the policy and advocacy front, the Institute will analyze how policies shape and inform practice; advocate for use of the best available evidence from research and practice to better inform new policies; and help transform existing policy through collective action and partnership among agencies and stakeholder groups.
The Institute will be housed at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Community Services Building, located at 620 South 76th Street in Milwaukee. Gabriel McGaughey, director of well-being at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, and Joshua Mersky, associate professor of social work at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, will serve as co-directors of the Institute. An invitation-only launch event featuring remarks from County Executive Chris Abele, Mayor Tom Barrett, Troy, Dr. Mone and Eloise Anderson, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children & Families, will be held the evening of Monday, May 2.
To view a video about the Institute for Child and Family Well-Being, visit the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin YouTube page.