It doesn’t have to be difficult to be a kid – with the right Connections.

What if we could end child abuse and neglect?

Photo of Angela Roeber
2 1

Written by

Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

When school employees, medical providers, and families are challenged to find mental health care, they often call the child abuse hotline in an effort to get help. Last year, the hotline received 7,000+ calls each month, less than 1,000 were investigated. What happens to those cases that do not get investigated? Connections was created to intervene early in the development of a mental health problem, before outside systems such as child protection or juvenile justice services are involved.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)

Website

www.projectharmony.com

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Nebraska

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

Omaha

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Nebraska

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Omaha Metro Area (Douglas and Sarpy Counties)

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Over 60% of children are exposed to violence each year. Whether in the form of child maltreatment, bullying, domestic violence, or community violence, children suffer negative consequences as a result of direct or indirect exposure. This project seeks to provide children with early access to mental health services and other supports designed to build individual, family, and community resilience.

If we are truly going to end child abuse and neglect, we need to prevent it from happening.  Project Harmony is known for our response, we are shaping treatment and we are poised to lead prevention.

Local studies report that the Omaha Metro’s mental health system is fragmented and difficult to access.  Teachers, school counselors, and medical providers may identify children in need, but are unsure where to refer.  Mental health providers operate independently with a variety of treatment modalities – many times not using evidence based models of practice.  As a result, children and families are left to maneuver through the mental health system and many children do not receive appropriate, quality care in a timely manner.

The Adverse Childhood Experience Study (ACES) report that children exposed to interpersonal violence and/or household dysfunction suffer devastating consequences, both short term and over a lifetime.  Exposure to violence affects how children feel, how they act and how they learn.  Children with adverse childhood experiences and whose trauma goes unaddressed are at a higher risk of developing behavioral problems, school failure, substance abuse, repeat victimization and violent criminal behavior.

In early 2014, the Sherwood Foundation and the Bill and Ruth Scott Foundation joined together to provide funds for an initiative that improves early access to mental health services for children and their families.  Project Harmony was approached to be the lead agency and in January 2015 Project Harmony launched Connections – a program that links children, grades K-8, to mental health services.

Children with behavioral health symptoms – which may be indicative of toxic stress, trauma and exposure to violence – often can be identified early, and if timely, appropriate and effective services can be offered, a child can get back on track developmentally, function better at home and in the classroom, and be safer at home and in the community.

This project uses a 3-prong approach:

  • Support mental health providers in learning evidence-based practices when and where children are able to access them.
  • Reduce barriers families face in accessing mental health services - high deductibles, transportation, child care, co-pays, etc.
  • Establish networks with key referral sources – schools and medical clinics – so they know who to call and when to call.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Children who are differently abled
  • Low-income communities
  • No, not explicitly

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Child and Family Services
  • Education
  • Mental Health

Year Founded

2015

Project Stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Lisa is an 8-year-old girl referred to the Connections program by her school counselor because she was withdrawn, anxious, and there were concerns she was being bullied. The Connections Mental Health Coordinator and Mental Health Provider determined Lisa would be a good candidate for a Bounce Back group (adaptation of Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools – an evidence-based trauma model designed to be delivered in the school). After the 10 week course was completed, Dad shared that he saw a difference in home by an increase in her confidence and an increase in her desire to go to school. Dad said that he feels like his daughter has the appropriate tools necessary to face any difficult situation that may come up.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Quantitative:
Project Harmony’s Connections program served 1,000 children and youth, grades K-8, in 2015. These are children and youth who otherwise would not have received mental health services, but would have struggled socially, emotionally, and academically. Through Connections, Project Harmony trained 100 community mental health providers in evidence based practices. Not only does this increase knowledge and skill in treating childhood trauma, it increases capacity in the community as these are providers who treat 20-25 children each week.
Qualitative:
Due to the success of the Connections program, school districts around the state have asked that the program be expanded to their areas. Also, we have been asked to expand the program to other populations, e.g., juvenile justice populations, older youth, pre-school children, etc.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $1mil - $5mil

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We have been asked to expand to other school districts and other populations. Expansion is based solely on funding. Currently we have a five-year commitment from two private foundations and other local foundations have expressed interest in the program as well. With demonstrated success, the two private foundations will continue to renew their commitment at or above the current agreement.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

There are other school based mental health programs, but the difference is in the engagement we have with families through our mental health coordinators. Boys Town offers a behavioral health clinic with the expectation families will come to them during their hours of operation. Methodist Community Counseling Program offers mental health therapy in the middle and high school settings. However, they are unable to address barriers to treatment. Connections is able to link families to treatment when and where it is most convenient for the child and family.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

A Trauma Informed Community-We all need to be committed to leading and assisting organizations, individuals and communities through the utilization of resources in education, prevention and response to the many different aspects of trauma - the root cause of our growing public health crisis. Examples: provide law enforcement with the tools needed to avoid trauma-related dynamics that may be traumatizing for those seeking assistance; provide training around trauma on educators and the tools to address and manage the impact; as well as establishing a supportive parenting approach.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

Jeanee Weiss, MS - Building Healthy Futures (www.buildinghealthyfutures.org)

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 50%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 50%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 0%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 0%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 25%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 50%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 0%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 25%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 0%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 25%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 50%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 25%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 0%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 25%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 50%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 0%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 25%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 0%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 100%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 0%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 50%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 50%

2 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Angela Roeber
Team

Thank you for your comment and feedback as well as interest in our program.  To answer your question we are currently working with Chapin Hall to evaluate the outcomes of our program and we are looking at several factors:


Decrease in child mental health and trauma symptoms measured by the Treatment Outcome Package (TOP)

Achievement of benchmarks as identified by school, family, and provider

Improvement of family relationships/functioning/stability as measured by the Protective Factors Survey (PFS).

Furthermore, I've add additional information below related to the impact we've seen thus far since Connections launched in January of 2015.

Quantitative:

Project Harmony’s connections program served 1,000 children and youth, grades K-8, in 2015. These are children and youth who otherwise would not have received mental health services, but would have struggled socially, emotionally, and academically.
Through Connections, Project Harmony trained 100 community mental health providers in evidence based practices, including Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Child Parent Psychotherapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools. Not only does this increase knowledge and skill in treating childhood trauma, it increases capacity in the community as these are providers who treat 20-25 children each week – which includes children referred by individuals and programs other than Connections.


Qualitative:

Connections has placed community mental health providers in some schools to help improve access for children whose parents may be unable to drive them to therapy sessions. School Principals report that without school-based providers, children would not receive the mental health or trauma treatment they need. They are grateful to Connections for coordinating school-based mental health treatment.
Connections has coordinated Circle of Security parenting groups at the Learning Community Center of North Omaha. After attending the sessions, parents have asked for mental health therapy for themselves. Case managers have noted that the groups reduce stigma and provide a gateway to accessing mental health treatment for children and their parents.
Because of the success of the Connections program, school districts around the state have asked that the program be expanded to their areas. Also, we have been asked to expand the program to other populations, e.g., juvenile justice populations, older youth, pre-school children, etc.

View all comments