Finding mental health care providers for children

Chittick Elementary SchoolMost of the time, City Connects coordinators find the resources needed for each of their schools’ students. But sometimes, even in cities that are teeming with programs, agencies, and services, coordinators cannot find the resources that would best serve a particular child.

One such challenge that coordinators routinely face is finding enough mental health counselors for children who need them. Approximately, 13-20 percent of children have a mental health diagnosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention..

It’s a problem that the Boston Globe covered in a recent article.

“Harvard researchers posing as the parent of a depressed 12-year-old called hundreds of child psychiatrists and pediatricians looking for appointments, and discovered what many actual parents know through bitter experience: Most of the time the calls were fruitless. Continue reading

City Connects in Springfield: results and the importance of integrated student supports

We’re excited to share a new article in CommonWealth magazine that tells the story of how Springfield is using City Connects to help its school children thrive.

The article — “‘Wraparound’ services helping kids succeed: Expansion of City Connects program to Springfield” – was co-authored by Daniel J. Warwick, Superintendent of the Springfield Public Schools, and Mary Walsh, the Executive Director of City Connects.

“When Children walk into their schools,” the article begins, “they make everyone feel what they feel. Teachers, principals, even superintendents can all feel the burdens students carry, especially those who struggle with poverty and despair. Some children talk about their challenges. Others don’t. Either way, educators and administrators feel the weight of the hunger, homelessness, mental health challenges, incarceration of parents, and other hardships that many children bear. We have to feel it, because being connected to children is the only way that we can successfully do our jobs. Continue reading

The power of existing community resources

Pictured left to right: Dave Plantier, President & CEO of MassMutual FCU and CCUA Social Responsibility Committee member; Shavon Powell, Bed for Every Child recipient; Stephanie Sanabria, City Connects Coordinator – Springfield Public Schools; and Lynn Liquornik, VP of Lending at MassMutual FCU and Pioneer Valley Chapter President.

At City Connects, our coordinators implement our innovative model: a system that brings the right services to the right child at the right time.

On a normal day, this can mean working with our community partners to connect children to tutoring, dental and health services, after-school programs, and counseling.

But on some days, coordinators spring into action when there’s an emergency.

That’s what happened recently when the Powell family had to deal with an apartment fire. Continue reading

Student Success Includes Enrichment

At City Connects, we bring the right services to the right child at the right time.

A crucial step in this process is to clear away barriers to learning.

That’s why we make sure students have access to eye doctors, dental care, food, and clothes. We help students who are homeless, and we connect families to counseling services.

But this isn’t enough. Continue reading

City Connects in Early Education Settings

Adapting City Connects for preschool classrooms took careful thought.

“We had to ask how we could be true to our framework and adapt it for early childhood,” Patrice DiNatale, City Connects’ director of new practice, says, “We spent considerable amounts of time talking to early childhood experts.”

In 2009, City Connects received funding from the Better Way Foundation to implement its model in early childhood programs in Catholic schools.

In 2012, City Connects was set up at Catholic Charities’ Nazareth Child Care Center, a freestanding early child care center in Jamaica Plain. Currently, City Connects is in early education settings in five states, a total of 38 public school classrooms and 19 Catholic school classrooms. Continue reading

City Connects and its Impact on Teachers

We know that City Connects helps students, but recently published research also looks at its impact on teachers — and on how they teach.

The article — “The impact of comprehensive student support on teachers: Knowledge of the whole child, classroom practice, and Teacher Support” — appears in the journal Teaching and Teacher Education.

As the article explains, teachers know that children living in poverty often face a long list of challenges, including hunger, homelessness, family chaos, and obesity.

Citing Charles E. Bach’s “Healthier Students are Better Learners,” the article notes, “No matter how well teachers are prepared to teach, no matter what accountability measures are put in place, no matter what governing structures are established for schools, educational progress will be profoundly limited if students are not motivated and able to learn.” Continue reading

How City Connects Keeps Learning

Graduate student researchers Despina Petsagourakis and Agnes Chung

City Connects is constantly learning. We learn from the experiences of our City Connects coordinators and the national array of schools and communities in which we work. And because City Connects is based in Boston College’s Lynch School of Education, we are also learning from different scientific fields about how we can make City Connects better. Once we have this knowledge, we go out and share it.

This cycle of learning was on display last week when Agnes Chung and Romita Mitra – both graduate students at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education – went to a Harvard Graduate School of Education conference to share two research posters about City Connects. The theme of the conference was “Spanning the Divide: Building Bridges through Research.” Continue reading

Seven Things We Know from the Developmental Sciences

Because science tells us more and more about how children’s brains work, we’ve gotten better at providing children with the services and opportunities they need to thrive.

Our Center at the Boston College Lynch School of Education published a brief on the scientific foundation of our work called, “Principles of Effective Practice for Integrated Student Support,” which explains:

“Developmental science illuminates risks to child development and learning, as well as opportunities for meaningful intervention.”

“This research provides insight into why experiences like poverty and trauma can inhibit learning, and what can be done to counteract their effects.” These insights come from the sciences of psychology, human development, cognitive science, and neurobiology.

What do we know, so far? Continue reading