Newspaper Series Highlights Evidence2Success in Kearns, Utah

Posted June 20, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Salt Lake Tribune explores how community leaders in Utah are implementing Evidence2Success

A three-part series by The Salt Lake Tri­bune explores how com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers in Utah’s Kearns town­ship are imple­ment­ing the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Evidence2Success® frame­work to help chil­dren and teens build bet­ter rela­tion­ships, make health­i­er choic­es and ward off depres­sion and neg­a­tive thoughts.

Evidence2Success pro­vides a frame­work for engag­ing com­mu­ni­ties and pub­lic sys­tems in improv­ing the well-being of young peo­ple and their fam­i­lies through evi­dence-based pro­grams. Locat­ed in Salt Lake City, Kearns Town­ship is one of six sites nation­wide imple­ment­ing the initiative.

The coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic and recent inci­dents of police vio­lence have fur­ther exposed the inequities in our soci­ety, under­scor­ing the impor­tance of invest­ing in sup­ports and oppor­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple and their fam­i­lies in his­tor­i­cal­ly mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties,” says Amoret­ta Mor­ris, direc­tor of Nation­al Com­mu­ni­ty Strate­gies for the Casey Foun­da­tion. We hope that com­mu­ni­ties seek­ing ways to improve the lives of local youth are inspired by the effort in Kearns and con­sid­er imple­ment­ing sim­i­lar evi­dence-based prac­tices and pro­grams for the youth and fam­i­lies they serve.”

Iden­ti­fy­ing pri­or­i­ties, programs

The first arti­cle describes how lead­ers in Kearns, a diverse town­ship that has one of the high­est rates of child­hood pover­ty in Utah, exam­ined data on youth out­comes and select­ed pri­or­i­ties to address.

Using sur­vey data and oth­er indi­ca­tors, the Evidence2Success Kearns Com­mu­ni­ty Coali­tion, which includes com­mu­ni­ty res­i­dents and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the pub­lic, pri­vate and phil­an­thropic sec­tors, found that teens in the town­ship faced a host of chal­lenges, includ­ing high rates of sad­ness and depres­sion, alco­hol and nico­tine use, parental dis­en­gage­ment and a lack of attach­ment to their communities.

Giv­en the data, the coali­tion — which cur­rent­ly meets vir­tu­al­ly due to the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic — iden­ti­fied areas of pro­gram­ming to help Kearns’ teens, including:

  • reduc­ing neg­a­tive behav­iors, such as drink­ing and vaping;
  • build­ing cop­ing skills for sad­ness and neg­a­tive thoughts; and
  • cre­at­ing strong ties with fam­i­lies, schools and their communities.

My goal and the goal of Evidence2Success is to make kids’ lives as healthy as pos­si­ble,” says Joshua Nielsen, a local pas­tor and one of the lead­ers of the Kearns coali­tion. Healthy kids mean more kids grad­u­at­ing, stay­ing in the com­mu­ni­ty and giv­ing back. If you’re not healthy, you’re not going to be a con­trib­u­tor to society.”

Help­ing care­givers build par­ent­ing skills

The sec­ond arti­cle spot­lights Guid­ing Good Choic­es, a pro­gram offered by Salt Lake Coun­ty that teach­es care­givers how to con­nect with teens pos­i­tive­ly and set rules around behav­iors like drug and alco­hol use. Class­es — which start­ed at two junior high schools in Kearns but have since expand­ed to oth­er schools in Salt Lake Coun­ty — are now online due to cam­pus closings.

In the pro­gram, care­givers par­tic­i­pate in numer­ous exer­cis­es, includ­ing act­ing out how to talk with chil­dren about top­ics like peer pres­sure. Care­givers also learn to:

  • hold reg­u­lar fam­i­ly meet­ings to bond with chil­dren and set expec­ta­tions around behav­ior, par­tic­u­lar­ly drug and alco­hol use;
  • learn how to con­tain or express anger in a con­struc­tive way; and
  • involve youth in decision-making.

Accord­ing to the Tri­bune, eval­u­a­tors are still ana­lyz­ing whether the pro­gram leads to bet­ter out­comes, but ear­ly data is pos­i­tive. All 120 care­givers who took the course in 2018 said they would hold fam­i­ly meet­ings, with 70% not­ing they’d have them weekly.

Build­ing cop­ing skills

The final arti­cle explores ME Time, a pro­gram used by the local school sys­tem that offers group coun­sel­ing meant to reduce the onset of depres­sion for youth fac­ing emo­tion­al chal­lenges. The Kearns coali­tion and Salt Lake Coun­ty Youth Ser­vices trained 12 school social work­ers to imple­ment the six-ses­sion pro­gram, which is now being offered online.

In the meet­ings, groups of sev­er­al stu­dents are giv­en a space to bond with peers and talk about chal­lenges they face, includ­ing bul­ly­ing, school stress, fam­i­ly issues and past trau­mas. They also learn to:

  • reduce and com­bat neg­a­tive thoughts by coun­ter­ing them with pos­i­tive, ratio­nal ones and track­ing them in a journal;
  • engage more often in healthy behav­iors, such as exer­cis­ing and spend­ing time with fam­i­ly and friends; and
  • devel­op plans to han­dle future stress.

Though the out­comes of the pro­gram in Kearns are still being stud­ied, some coun­selors who have imple­ment­ed it have report­ed improved scores on depres­sion assess­ments for teens who participated.

We’re very pleased to see the progress being made in Kearns to help youth live health­i­er, hap­pi­er lives,” Mor­ris says. We hope that Kearns con­tin­ues to learn from its efforts and show oth­er com­mu­ni­ties how pub­lic invest­ments in evi­dence-based pro­grams can improve the lives of young people.”

Read about sim­i­lar Evidence2Success pro­grams in Memphis

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