Evaluating High Risk Adoptions

The Prevention Group is serving as the evaluator in a collaborative project, Right Turn, between Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska and the Nebraska Children's Home Society. TPG is conducting formative and summative evaluations of Right Turn's A Step Further program, designed to prevent dissolution of high risk adoptions. Right Turn's mission is to provide family-driven, post-adoption and post-guardianship services for children and families. Right Turn's vision is that all post-adoptive and post-guardianship families will have access to high quality, family-centered support throughout the ages and stages of their adoption and guardianship journey. The A Step Further program, developed as a result of initial Right Turn program outcomes, provides more intense interventions to help families develop goals and strategies that meet their unique adoption needs. A Step Further teaches parents relationship building techniques and discipline strategies that can be utilized to improve a child's capacity for forming trusting relationships, improving the parent-child relationship, and enhancing the effectiveness of parents in this relationship.

Evaluating School-Wide Classroom Management

The Prevention Group is providing consultation and evaluation services for a Level 4 middle school in an urban school district in Massachusetts. Level 4 schools are identified as underperforming schools at risk for restructuring and further corrective action if student academic and behavioral performance doesn't reach annual state-established goals. The Prevention Group staff has worked in similar capacities with schools in Harford and New Britain, CT and elsewhere throughout the U.S. Results from the Hartford Public Schools project indicated that teachers who implemented the targeted classroom management skills with a high level of integrity, i.e., they did what they were trained to do with a high level of skill, were more likely to have students who were engaged in the class academic lesson and had fewer discipline related school suspensions than teachers with lower levels of implementation integrity (Burke, Oats, Ringle, O'Neill Fichtner, & DelGaudio, 2011).

Fire Safety Program

The Prevention Group, in collaboration with leading fire safety experts with the Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department, developed the Have a Home Escape Plan program. The program provides fire departments with materials for fire safety school assemblies. Program scripts provide information and activities for a student assembly with elementary or middle school students. The script is written for a firefighter and an inflatable mascot (typically, WalkAround® Firefighter mascot). The WalkAround mascot is used to attract and retain students' attention throughout the assembly. The main components of the script are (1) Introduction, (2) Instruction, (3) Demonstration, (4) Practice and Activities, and (5) Review. Reviews of fire safety presentations indicate that the program is replicated with a high level of fidelity by firefighter presenters (90% to 96% fidelity) and mascots (86% to 93% fidelity).

Reducing Fear of Movement With Chronic Back Pain Patients

A collaborative project with Creighton University medical clinic staff focused on reducing fear of movement in patients with chronic back pain. The fear-avoidance model proposes that chronic pain, when erroneously interpreted as a sign of serious injury or harm, leads to excessive fear (kinesiophobia) and avoidance of movement followed by disability and depression. Treatment typically involves medication. This project assesses a three-part intervention on patients' physical mobility and pain-related mental health issues. The intervention included (a) a 45-minute informational talk about chronic pain, movement, and the value of taking a management rather than curative approach to pain, (b) visual performance feedback regarding speed-walking rate, and (c) speed-walking goal setting. Results indicated that (a) all 4 patients improved speed walking times during intervention and follow-up phases and (b) all 7 pain related mental health measures improved from baseline to end of study and 6 of 7 measures improved from end of study to follow-up. The next phase of this project involves making the informational talk accessible on a portable computing device so that the three-part intervention can be easily implemented by medical clinic staff. Results will be presented this year at the annual conference for the Society for Behavioral Medicine (Guck, Rainville, Hill-Taylor, & Burke, 2013).

Service Learning Programs

TPG's Service Learning Programs for Middle and High School Students provides schools with opportunities to address key student engagement issues by involving older students in teaching younger students about the skills and values that are important for success in school and life. Program manuals provide detailed outlines and lesson plans for more than 20 social, emotional, behavioral, and academic skills that can be presented in individual classrooms, at school assemblies, as part of after-school programs, and in conjunction with other community based programs for children and young teens. The program generally requires adult supervision but, with practice, older students have presented the program with minimal adult involvement.

Program scripts and lesson plans include a narrative for a presenter and school mascot to follow, a list of materials to obtain or produce for use with each assembly, forms for program evaluation and monitoring progress of targeted at-risk students, and additional information about the target problem or skill.

School Skills for Success

School districts work hard to maintain a positive image in their communities, improve student connectedness (especially among challenging and at-risk students), increase meaningful activities for students with special needs, and provide opportunities for positive relationships among students and staff. School Skills for Success provides elementary schools with opportunities to address these issues. School Skills for Success is a positive youth development program that enhances children's social, emotional, academic, and life skills and can be adapted to function as universal, selective, indicated, and treatment interventions that build on students' strengths and teach alternatives to students' skill deficits.

School Skills for Success includes a comprehensive and detailed set of collaborative project manuals that outline lessons for teaching elementary school students about the skills and values that are important for success in school and life. School Skills for Success gives elementary school staff the tools to provide engaging school-wide and individually targeted social and life skills lessons.

School Assemblies

The Prevention Group has presented social skill assemblies to grade school students on three continents. An example is the How to Handle a Bully assembly presented to approximately 3822 students at 13 Bellevue Public elementary schools. The program focused on teaching students how to handle situations when they or a classmate were confronted by others who tease, bully, or attempt to start a fight. Specifically, the assembly taught students how to (a) tell a bully to stop, (b) walk away from a bully, and (c) tell an adult about the bully problem. Immediately after the assembly and at three months after the assembly, we conducted evaluations of the program to assess whether students understood and learned the assembly content.

The Prevention Group's school programs have proven incredibly effective in imparting memorable messages to children. Follow-up surveying after the Bullying program found that over 97% of students (grades 3 to 6) were able to identify all key messages in the days after the assembly, and 85% of the students were able to identify all of the key messages from the program three months after the assembly!