Session: Integrating Empirically-Based Prevention Strategies and Empowerment Practices in Schools (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

272 Integrating Empirically-Based Prevention Strategies and Empowerment Practices in Schools

Sunday, January 20, 2019: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Union Square 22 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
Cluster: Adolescent and Youth Development (ADOL)
Stephanie Nisle, MA, University of Denver, Kimberly Bender, PhD, University of Denver, Daphne Brydon, LMFT, LMSW, University of Denver and Valerie Shapiro, PhD, University of California, Berkeley
Of the approximately fifty million students in the U.S., roughly one-third attend public schools where racial/ethnic disparities in discipline, behavioral health, and academic achievement persist. A key aim of the Social Work Grand Challenge, Ensuring Healthy Development for All Youth, is to reduce disparities in behavioral health problems. In order to achieve this goal, evidence-based universal prevention strategies have been implemented within schools where classroom teachers typically help young people build social and emotional skills (e.g., self-regulation, problem solving, decision making, and communication). These universal programs have been effective in preventing problem behaviors among many young people by focusing primarily on improving individual youths' cognitive and social skills or changing interpersonal interactions among youth.

Like universal prevention programs, youth empowerment programs also aim to reduce disparities in healthy development, but these programs often differ from social emotional programs in regard to target population, setting, and approach. Empowerment programs are implemented primarily in afterschool settings, often target marginalized young people, and strive to build young people's competencies as they work to disrupt traditional power dynamics. When working with students, empowerment programs strive to develop youth voice, encouraging adults to share power with young people as they make decisions about programming and advocate for needs in their communities. While evidence for youth empowerment programs is "younger" than social emotional learning programs in regard to intervention effects, it appears to be a promising way to authentically engage young people, support their skill development, and promote equity.

Although these two approaches support the same underlying goal of serving young people to be successful in schools and reduce disparities in undesirable youth outcomes, they embrace different strategies, philosophies, and methods of working with young people. Both approaches are widely disseminated in the literature; yet they have been implemented almost entirely in isolation. This limits our knowledge of if and how the two approaches might be integrated, thereby improving the potential efficacy of each modality and increasing the ability of the field to achieve the Grand Challenge of Healthy Development for All Youth.

This roundtable invites researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers to engage in a structured discussion around points of overlap and divergence between universal prevention programming and youth empowerment programs. One scholar from each area will discuss their respective approach, including guiding philosophies, supporting evidence, and limitations. Three other presenters will provide analysis of the two approaches, drawing from their own research and practice. The session will close with a moderated discussion between presenters and attendees to think together about how universal prevention and youth empowerment programming could be integrated to respond to the Grand Challenge to Ensure the Healthy Development for All Youth. The results may lead to the development of more effective models aiming to reduce educational disparities and increase school success for all young people.

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