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Past Projects


Co-I: Heather J. Risser, PhD

The Computer-Simulated Interactive Child Abuse Screening Tool (CSI-CAST) project combines a simulation (assessment phase) with an online training component (training phase) to assess and train users to diagnose and respond to child physical abuse (CPA). A prototype of the simulation exists in which users will conduct virtual examinations where multiple contextual cues related to CPA are present (assessment phase). Based on user actions in the assessment phase, personalized online training modules will load.

The development team is currently in the formative evaluation stage of prototype development. The ultimate goal of this project is to disseminate training to improve competence in assessing and responding to suspected CPA.

 Juventud Sin Prision (Youth Without Prison)

PI: Tracy Fehrenbach, PhD

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funds the Juventud sin Prisión project, an intervention for currently and previously incarcerated youth in Mexico. Reinserta, a nonprofit agency well-recognized throughout Mexico, works closely with youth to help them advance their education, enhance their vocational and independent living skills, build personal interests and strengths, recover from trauma and mental health problems and contribute in a positive way to their communities. MHSPP provides guidance and expert consultation on monitoring and evaluation activities, project improvement and data analysis. The ultimate goal of the project is to design a replicable evidence based model that effectively reduces youth recidivism and increases the number of youth who are successful reintegrated back into their communities.

 ARCC Partnership Grant

Academic PI: Tracy Fehrenbach, PhD

Community PI: Lisa D. Daniels, Founder and Executive Director of the Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Practices

Acts of violence in Chicago reached its highest point in two decades in 2016. In this same year, Englewood, a neighborhood on the South Side, had the second highest homicide rate in Chicago. Those who have lost someone to gun violence experience severe and, in some cases, debilitating trauma. This holds especially true for mothers who have lost a child. There are few services available for women in Englewood experiencing this type of loss. Furthermore, little research has been conducted to understand the complex needs of women from Communities of Color like Englewood who have lost a child to gun-violence.

Funded by an ARCC Partnership Development seed grant, Northwestern and the Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Practices, will partner and build a Community Stakeholder Alliance made up of community members, nonprofit professionals and academic partners to exchange knowledge, review existing evidence-based practices, and examine the lived experiences of women in the community. Additionally, the project team will review scientific literature and existing treatment interventions in an effort to inform the development of a replicable, trauma-informed, evidence-informed program that comprehensively addresses the needs of mothers who have lost a child to gun violence and/or incarceration.

Project Dates: September 1, 2018 – August 31, 2019

About Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Practices

The Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Practices (The Center) is a behavioral health services organization serving Chicago’s Englewood, Greater Grand Crossing and Woodlawn communities, founded on the belief that no one's legacy should ever be defined by their worst mistake. Our mission is to transform the individual behaviors we believe to be at the core of gun-violence by offering trauma-centered recovery services to women and children impacted by the loss of a loved one as a result of violent crime who was either a victim or an offender.

For more information, visit:

About the Alliance for Research in Chicagoland Communities (ARCC)

The Alliance for Research in Chicagoland Communities (ARCC) at Northwestern University’s Center for Community Health annually awards seed grant funds that support Chicagoland community-engaged partnerships and research projects. ARCC believes that using the tools of science to achieve health equity can best be done when academic researchers and communities work together. The goals of these awards is to support the development and increase the number of community-academic partnerships that are prepared to collaborate to design and conduct community-engaged research projects.

For more information, visit:

 Parent Training in Pediatric Primary Care

Co-I: Heather J. Risser, PhD

Funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality in collaboration with Rush University Medical Center and the University of Illinois Hospital and Health System, we are studying the implementation of the ezParent, a tablet-based tool used by pediatric primary care providers to help parents develop their parenting skills. ezParent is an innovative opportunity to promote positive parenting with potential for universal access to the preschool population and low cost by building on existing infrastructure in pediatric primary care.

The implementation of the ezParent in four pediatric primary care sites will be evaluated using a descriptive design guided by the RE-AIM framework and cost-effectiveness analysis. The efficacy of the ezParent will be tested using a randomized controlled trial design with 312 parents of 2- to 5-year-old children from pediatric primary care settings. Data on parenting and child behavior outcomes will be obtained from all participants at baseline and at three, six and 12 months post-baseline.

 Illinois Council on Youth’s Trauma Informed Youth Services Initiative

PI: Tracy Fehrenbach, PhD

With funding from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Illinois Collaboration on Youth (previously Youth Network Council) established a Trauma Informed Youth Services Initiative in 2009. The overarching goal of the initiative was to incorporate trauma-informed practices and policies into community-based youth serving agencies in Illinois to improve outcomes for young people who are experiencing traumatic stress. MHSPP faculty and staff directed the design, oversight and implementation of the outcome evaluation for this initiative, collected and analyzed data and offered suggestions for program improvement. The purpose of the evaluation was to assess the impact of implementing trauma-informed services with underserved youth in urban, suburban, and rural settings in Illinois by focusing on a wide range of indicators including youth’s behavioral and mental health needs and strengths, trauma-related symptoms and risk behaviors including delinquent behaviors that lead to legal sanctions.

 Mental Health Juvenile Justice Initiative

PI: Tracy Fehrenbach, PhD

The Illinois Department of Human Services’ Division of Mental Health funds and oversees the state-wide Mental Health Juvenile Justice (MHJJ) Initiative. The goals of MHJJ are to (1) identify youth in the juvenile justice system who have trauma-related or other mental health problems, (2) assess youth and develop a treatment plan, (3) help youth connect with community-based providers that can address their needs and (4) advocate for and help these youth and their families navigate the juvenile court system. Faculty and staff at MHSPP have evaluated the MHJJ program from 2000- 2017 and were able to demonstrate that mentally ill youth can be identified in the juvenile justice system and that, when treated in the community, their clinical condition improves, their school attendance increases and their re-arrest rate declines.

 One Hope United’s Healing Path Program

PI: Tracy Fehrenbach, PhD

From October 2012 through September 2016, MHSPP evaluated the effectiveness of The Healing Path: A Trauma Treatment Program for Youth and Caregivers Impacted by Trauma designed and carried out by One Hope United. With funding from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, The Healing Path assists children and families who are impacted by trauma in Lake County, Illinois. The Healing Path utilizes a trauma-focused treatment model, Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency (ARC), to provide treatment to children aged 4 – 18 and their caregivers.  The program also offers a trauma-informed parenting group as well as community training for local professionals in the area of trauma.

 Illinois Childhood Trauma Coalition

PI: Cassandra Kisiel, PhD

Dr. Kisiel serves as the clinical director of the Illinois Childhood Trauma Coalition, whose members represent over 50 public and private organizations in Illinois. The goal of this coalition is to take a public health approach to the evolving understanding of the nature and impact of childhood trauma and to expedite the integration of this wisdom into public awareness and the array of systems that serve children and families in Illinois. Current projects include research on a possible developmental trauma diagnosis for DSM-V and training various groups on brain development and child trauma.

 MacArthur Foundation, Models for Change

PI: Gene Griffin, JD, PhD

Illinois participates in the MacArthur Foundation, Models for Change, juvenile justice programs. As part of the workforce development group, Dr. Griffin and others from Illinois helped to develop a curriculum for juvenile justice line staff. The curriculum focuses on an understanding of adolescent development, mental health and trauma issues. These concepts are then applied to working with youth and families involved in the juvenile justice system. Dr. Griffin is involved in training juvenile justice staff in Illinois and in training trainers on this curriculum in other states.

 Chicago Public Schools

PI: Gene Griffin, JD, PhD

MHSPP worked with Chicago Public Schools as they prepared to meet federal requirements for Response to Interventions, a paradigm for diagnosing attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and learning disabilities. Initiatives included the development of a three-tiered approach to dealing with behavioral health issues, including trauma, as part of a general education program. MHSPP, along with experts from Children’s Memorial Hospital, consulted on evidence-based assessment and intervention programs.

 CHIPRA Quality Demonstration Project

PI: Dana Weiner, PhD

CHIPRA is a federally funded project designed to improve the quality of medical homes for youth across the state. CHIPRA uses the Illinois Statewide Provider Database to obtain supplemental community-based service referral information, and this project funds two SPD staff who provide training to pediatric practices as well as data collection and maintenance for referral information relevant for these practices.

 Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice Screening & Assessment Project

PI: Dana Weiner, PhD

The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission provides support for the implementation of assessment and screening strategies in Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice facilities and aftercare programs. The commission funds both the development and training in the use of the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths-based Youth Development Plan, as well as IT support for the development of an online case management system and the extraction and analysis of data for administrative decision making.

 Permanency Innovations Initiative

PI: Dana Weiner, PhD

The Permanency Innovations Initiative is a federally-funded, multi-state program to evaluate the effectiveness of evidence-based interventions for reducing long-term foster care among youth at risk for long stays in the child welfare system.

  • The Illinois Project is a randomized controlled trial of Trauma Affect Regulation Guide for Education and Training, a psychoeducational model that trains foster parents, biological parents and youth in strategies for regulating affect and behavior.
  • Dr. Weiner serves as the evaluation liaison on the project, providing consultation and oversight to the federal evaluators (Westat) and local implementation team.