Get IN Chicago is a local organization founded in 2013. Their mission is to identify, fund, and rigorously evaluate evidence-based programs that will reduce violence for individuals and communities in Chicago. Their core programs focus on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Mentoring, and Parent Engagement/Leadership. Last year, Get IN Chicago launched a new Strengthening Youth through a Network of Care (SYNC) initiative. The SYNC uses data from the CANS to understand and provide support for Chicago youth at risk of participating in gun violence.
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Effective support for acutely high-risk youth must address their most pressing needs while leveraging their greatest strengths. With that in mind, Get IN Chicago’s Strengthening Youth through a Network of Care (SYNC) initiative embeds individualized treatment plans into its programming. In particular, the SYNC intake system utilizes the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) assessment to create a comprehensive understanding of participants from the start.
CANS is a multi-purpose tool designed to support meaningful decision-making, care, and service planning among child welfare professionals, juvenile justice agencies, mental health professionals, and families. In addition to documenting and prioritizing needs and assets, CANS is also beneficial for setting baselines and tracking improvement.
The SYNC team uses the CANS assessment to understand needs such as hunger, trauma, and risk behaviors like substance abuse and involvement in criminal activity. The CANS also allows providers to identify family assets and needs, such as housing and employment support, in order to make appropriate referrals and connections.
Initial findings from a report of 2017 SYNC CANS assessments highlighted profiles of a cohort of 191 participants. The implications of this data are meaningful as Get IN Chicago develops new partnerships to reflect a more comprehensive picture of the needs of acutely high-risk youth.
Key Findings – CANS Assessments
- 70% of youth reported trauma exposure, and more than half of that group reported traumatic symptoms related to that exposure.
- Half of youth requested assistance with anger control and aggression.
- 1 in 5 youth reported symptoms of Depression, including irritability or depressed mood, social withdrawal, sleep disturbances, weight/eating disturbances, and loss of motivation.
- While caregiver supports, connections, and resilience were areas that were least identified, youth named the ability for a parent to communicate and effectively listen as a top priority.
Youth also self-identified areas in which they would like more immediate support. More than half (57%) requested academic support, with school attendance support (37.5%) and employment support (27%) also ranking high.
Moving forward, Get IN Chicago and SYNC providers will be working to make linkages around these needed services. Youth with trauma exposure and symptoms are especially well-positioned to benefit from the case management, mentoring, and therapy services provided by SYNC. Case management staff recommend incorporating these findings into future action plans, both on an individual level and through positive peer groups and activities. Additionally, family engagement programs supported by Get IN Chicago, which focus on parenting teens, hold promise to benefit many SYNC participants and their caregivers.
To learn more about the SYNC initiative, make sure to follow TCOM Conversations and Get IN Chicago.
This sounds like a great program. I really like how the youth are encouraged to pick their own goals, and that we then can see a report on those items. Interestingly, it’s all about how they spend their day: either in school or at work. This, of course, makes sense, but I don’t know if I would have guessed those would be the most common items if I was asked.
I should note that if the program is for children at risk for gun violence, the use of the CANS Firearms Risk item could be helpful. Since, presumably, we want to monitor both their intentions and access to firearms, and impacting that would be something treatment would need to do at various times.