ICFW Newsletter, Spring 2022

The mission of the Institute for Child and Family Well-Being is to improve the lives of children and families with complex challenges by implementing effective programs, conducting cutting-edge research, engaging communities, and promoting systems change.

The Institute for Child and Family Well-Being is a collaboration between Children’s Wisconsin and the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The shared values and strengths of this academic-community partnership are reflected in the Institute’s three core service areas: Program Design and Implementation, Research and Evaluation, and Community Engagement and Systems Change.

In This Issue:

Program Design and Implementation

The Institute develops, implements and disseminates validated prevention and intervention strategies that are accessible in real-world settings.

Minecraft® Social Skills Design and Implementation Prototype

By Meghan Christian

A virtual game-based, social skills group recently completed its second prototype iteration with the goal to improve social and emotional skills such as social communication, cooperation, problem solving, and self-control. For 8 weeks, children ages 7.5-13 years old gathered on Zoom and the Minecraft® education edition platform along with facilitators Melissa Sobish, Mental Health Consultant, and MSW intern Brianna Schneeburger. First, a brief conversation took place on a specific social skill. Then the group played Minecraft® together; this provided space for practice which lays down neural pathways towards the development of the skill. In order to practice shifting focus, attunement, and frustration tolerance, the group was brought back together at the end to discuss what had occurred.

Based on the Lived Experience of participants and After Action Reviews with staff, several changes were tested in this iteration of this Minecraft® social skill group. The group size was reduced from 9 to 5 participants. This time around each participant attended every week! The group time was increased from 60 to 75 minutes and was lengthened from 6 to 8 weeks, and a co-facilitator was added. The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) parent and self (for 11+) versions was administered as a standardized assessment pre and post group. The post group assessment was turned into a Survey Monkey versus attaching to an email. A small incentive was offered for the return of post group assessments.

Lessons Learned

  • A group size similar to the 1st group is optimal in order to maximize socializing opportunities and ability to accept referrals across a maximum amount of Wisconsin counties. Two facilitators makes a larger group (around 10 participants) much more doable. Participants liked that facilitators were playing together with them. This would suggest steering away from group sizes in the dozens.
  • Parents want information on how they might incorporate group topics and practice into home life sent along with the weekly group updates.
  • According to SDQ results, difficulties persisted in more or less all the same areas for participants, however 60% of parents reported the impact of difficulties was less.

Promising Outcomes

  • 80% of parents and participants provided feedback in a survey. All (children and parents alike) were glad they joined the group. The majority of parents said their child was communicating, managing emotions and/or navigating social situations better. Half of participants reported using what they learned in real life weekly or more with the other half using the information several time times since starting group. Participants noted feeling successful, powerful, and hopeful.
  • Children often preferred to continue interacting with each other in the game world after group time had ended.
  • An integrity checklist was developed by the facilitator so future facilitators may replicate the group.
  • 100% of requested assessments were returned.

Resources Needs

  • Iterate to incorporate best practices into a single group.
  • Melissa Sobish (facilitator) is interested in leading another iteration. ICFW expects this could happen starting in early September. An intern would need to be identified to co-facilitate.
  • Development of relationships with interested partners to begin targeting scalability and sustainability.

Learn More:

Minecraft® to Build Our Children’s Social Skills

Parenting With PRIDE Design and Implementation Prototype

By Leah Cerwin

As a result of earlier prototype designs and testing conducted by the Institute for Child and Family Well-being (ICFW), Children’s Wisconsin’s Child and Family Counseling programs are currently providing Parenting with P.R.I.D.E., an 8-week virtual therapy group for parents/caregivers and a child in their care. This group is being facilitated by licensed mental and behavioral health clinicians and masters-level student interns, and includes components from the evidence-based intervention, Parent Child Interaction Therapy. We are proud of the efforts that went into designing, testing, and now implementing within one of our Children’s programs so that we may provide the best and safest care to the children and families that we serve.

If you are interested in Parenting with PRIDE for yourself and your child, call Children’s Wisconsin Mental and Behavioral Health Access Department at 414-266-3339.

If you are interested in learning more about the Parenting with PRIDE model or our Translational Design workshops, please contact Luke Waldo at lwaldo@chw.org.

Research and Evaluation

The Institute accelerates the process of translating knowledge into direct practices, programs and policies that promote health and well-being, and provides analytic, data management and grant-writing support.

Recent ICFW Publications

ICFW recently published two studies that underscore the mental health needs of low-income women receiving home visiting services in Wisconsin.

Advancing research on perinatal depression trajectories: Evidence from a longitudinal study of low-income women

Choi, C., Mersky, J. P., Janczewski, C. E., & Goyal, D. (2022).  Journal of Affective Disorders, 301, 44-51.

This study of 899 women showed that most women who experience postpartum depression also report prenatal depression, and that a history of abuse and low social support predicted poor mental health outcomes over time.

Learn more about this study.

Intergenerational Pathways Linking Mothers’ Adverse Childhood Experiences and Children’s Social-Emotional Problems

Zhang, L., Mersky, J. P., & Plummer Lee, C. (2022).  Child Abuse & Neglect.

This analysis of 831 participants in the Families and Children Thriving Study revealed that mothers with higher ACE scores were more likely to have children with social-emotional difficulties. These intergenerational effects were largely explained by the negative effects of ACEs on mothers’ mental health.

Learn more about this study.

Community Engagement & Systems Change

The Institute develops community-university partnerships to promote systems change that increases the accessibility of evidence-based and evidence-informed practices.

Strong Families, Thriving Children, Connected Communities Initiative

By Luke Waldo

The goal of the Strong Families, Thriving Children, Connected Communities (SFTCCC) initiative is to reduce the number of family separations for reasons of neglect by building a community focused on collaboratively pursuing policies and practices that support overloaded families and address systemic failings. SFTCCC is a developmental strategy at its core, recognizing that more can be accomplished through shared learning and action to address the drivers of systems change that either hold the conditions that contribute to neglect in place or provide scaffolding for progress. This strategy includes three core phases:

  • Building shared understanding
  • Implementing a critical path strategy
  • Advancing innovation, systems, and policy solutions

Each phase can happen concurrently as we work to build community around preventing family separation for reasons of neglect. Over the past few months, we have worked to build a shared understanding by building consensus around shared language for the root causes that impact families, systems, and the decisions that may lead to family separation. We hosted two Roundtables with over 75 participants representing all Children’s Wisconsin Community Services’ programs and regions from Southeastern Wisconsin to the Northwoods. Through these Roundtables, we explored:

  • Individual and Systemic challenges that overload families with stress and create conditions for neglect and family separation;
  • Opportunities and existing practices, policies, and systems collaborations that we can leverage to reduce stress and keep families together;
  • Barriers to those opportunities that may limit their impact.

We have also hosted presentations and meetings with organizational and systems partners that are committed to preventing child maltreatment to share our vision for this initiative and to learn about our partners initiatives, so that we might more effectively collaborate and support one another.

We will be hosting additional Roundtables, presentations, and meetings throughout this year to continue to build a shared understanding. If you are interested in learning more, participating in a Roundtable, and/or joining this initiative, please visit the SFTCCC project page or sign up here.

Recent and Upcoming Events

The Institute provides training, consultation and technical assistance to help human service agencies implement and replicate best practices. If you are interested in training or technical assistance, please complete our speaker request form.

Building Brains with CARENewcap – April 6th

Fulfilling the Promise Conference Presentation – Parenting with PRIDE – April

UWM Guest Lecture on PCIT – Leah Cerwin – April

SFTCCC Roundtable with Children’s Leaders – April

SFTCCC Roundtable with Children’s Well-being Programs – June 3rd

All News