Partnerships and innovation linked to improved engagement for caregivers of teens

Research from University of Illinois at Chicago’s Institute for Juvenile Justice shows that youth living in families with healthy functioning patterns were less likely to be involved in violence, even when exposed to high levels of violence in their neighborhoods.  So far this year, Get IN Chicago’s three parent leadership programs have served 157 caregivers with two evidence-based programs designed to foster these healthy patterns: B-PROUD and Parenting Fundamentals.  While the programs are producing positive impacts on families, the cohort’s work is also providing valuable insights about how to build effective parent engagement programs – particularly strategies around partnerships, recruitment, and continuous engagement.

Participants in the Youth Guidance B-PROUD program in Englewood in August 2017. (Photo: Nicole Wong, Youth Guidance)

Service providers working with families realize that it takes a village to raise a child. To that end, our parent programs have solidified a combined 74 different partnerships for referrals, space, and event collaboration, all serving to increase community trust and expand their reach. Given that numerous studies have reiterated that the most effective youth violence strategies require collaboration from a broad array of partners such as block clubs, youth service providers, schools, and law enforcement, the cohort’s partnership efforts are not only notable, but necessary.

As Get IN Chicago research has illustrated, CBOs typically struggle to retain participants for the full cycle of a program, a necessity for reaping the benefits of evidence-based interventions.  However, Get IN Chicago’s parent programs have shown much promise in this area: last year, more than 78% of their participants completed the full program cycle (for comparison, that is 10 points higher than typically noted completion rates of CBT programs).  Providing childcare, hot meals, and transportation passes all helped caregivers more easily attend and finish the parent programs.  Additionally, some programs started offering intensive versions of their programs: instead of one session a week for two months, the group would meet twice weekly for a month.

The cohort has also tested a variety of innovative strategies to increase program participation.  Methods such as signups at community events and meetings and flyers distributed to youth at schools and nonprofits continue to be effective, but weekly phone call and text reminders increasingly make a difference.  One program allows graduated parents to return with the caveat that they must bring a new participant with them.  This work is paying off: in the first reporting period of 2017, the cohort engaged 34% more participants than expected and surpassed their outreach/recruitment goals by almost 60%. After this grant year, we should have more analysis about how these strategies played out in our communities and which were most effective.