As organizations dedicated to improving the health and well-being of children, both Children’s Wisconsin and the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee know that being healthy does not just mean kids aren’t sick or that they have access to medical care; it also means that they have the social and emotional support systems and resources necessary to reach their full potential.
Right now, there are enough kids in Milwaukee with two or more adverse childhood experiences — such as abuse, neglect, violence and extreme poverty — to fill Miller Park, with another 6,000 waiting in line. Research has shown that this type of adversity impairs early brain development and increases the risk of later health and mental health problems, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, school dropout and unemployment.
To help improve the lives of children and families facing complex challenges, Children’s Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Helen Bader School of Social Welfare have partnered on a new joint effort, the Institute for Child and Family Well-Being. The Institute’s work will focus on three core areas:
The Institute is a true academic-community partnership, with myself and Joshua Mersky, associate professor at UW-Milwaukee’s Helen Bader School of Social Welfare, serving as co-directors.
Most people don’t know that it takes an average of 17 years for research evidence to reach clinical practice. The Institute will help accelerate this process to make sure that effective clinical interventions and practices can be used by Children’s Wisconsin’s practitioners and others much sooner. Early prevention and intervention can mitigate the consequences of childhood adversity by helping kids develop stable, caring relationships with parents and guardians, which are essential for healthy development.
One example of an effective intervention that is currently being put into clinical practice by Children’s Wisconsin is Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), an evidence-based intervention that works with parents and children between the ages of 3 and 8 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. Treatment averages 12-14 sessions, but benefits typically emerge quickly and are long-lasting. 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 for Child and Family Well-Being will be housed at the Children’s Wisconsin Community Services building at 620 S. 76th St. We are excited to begin our journey to help better support children and families.