Preventing Violence and Strengthening Youth

Why violence prevention needs our attention

Chicago experiences devastating levels of violence, with notable increases in shootings, domestic violence and homicides in recent years. Despite the city being almost evenly split across its Black, Hispanic/Latinx and white populations, the impact of violence on Black and Hispanic/Latinx groups is staggeringly high. In 2021, 80% of fatal and non-fatal shooting victims were Black and 16% were Hispanic/Latinx.

At Lurie Children's, we are deeply troubled by this public health crisis. No young person should experience violence yet, since 2016, just under 15% of its victims were teenagers or younger. Over 7,000 emergency room visits and hospitalizations for violence-related injury impacted youth between 2016 and 2018. The damage violence causes is far-reaching, impacting both short and long term physical and mental health of our communities.

What Lurie Children's is doing to help prevent violence

Lurie Children’s is committed to making our city safer for everyone. We believe that violence prevention requires involvement from many different disciplines, and we leverage our clinic expertise in partnership with communities on multiple evidence-based violence prevention initiatives. Further, we believe that violence cannot be erased without first addressing its root causes, including systemic divestment, segregation, poverty and inequality.

Strengthening Chicago's Youth (SCY, pronounced “sky”), the largest violence prevention collaborative in Chicago, is a catalyst for innovative public health approaches to violence prevention. SCY works with community-based organizations, healthcare and mental health providers, youth leaders, advocates and researchers to disseminate and implement evidence-based violence prevention strategies.

SCY is also the partnership steward of the Juvenile Justice Collaborative (JJC), whose mission is to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system. The JJC connects youth, many of whom have experienced past trauma or are at risk of future exposure to violence, with community services and resources to minimize their future involvement in the justice system. These resources include mental and behavioral health support, victim services, recreational therapy and mentoring and workforce development. Launched in 2017, the JJC model is based on extensive research and has a track record of success.

Our impact on violence prevention

  • SCY shares knowledge and resources with over 4,500 violence prevention partners from across the city and suburbs.
  • SCY hosts trainings and educational opportunities attended by nearly 1,000 partners annually.
  • Since its inception, SCY’s Juvenile Justice Collaborative has connected 560+ youth to services. Overall, only 18% of youth who completed the program were re-referred to court within one year, compared with 32% of all youth following their first arrest.
  • Dr. John Walkup, Chair of the Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Lurie Children's, alongside Ujima Youth Researchers
    In partnership with SCY and Lurie Children’s Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Communities United – a community-based organization – was awarded $10 million over the next eight years as part of the the W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s global Racial Equity 2030 Challenge. Together, Communities United and SCY are working together to advance "Healing Through Justice: a Community-led Breakthrough Strategy for Healing Centered Communities," work that is a fundamental part of Lurie Children's 2023-2025 Community Health Implementation Strategy. 
    • As part of this partnership, SCY trained Ujima Youth Researchers in Participatory Action Research, a research approach in which the people with lived experience of a certain issue drive the research on that isssue. In February 2022, Ujima's researchers published "Changing the Beat of Mental Health," which includes calls to action and recommendations to reshape the mental health system to meet the needs of young men of color. 
  • SCY led the Community-Academic Collaboration to Prevent Violence in Chicago to enhance connections between academic, philanthropic, and community partners to build capacity to develop, implement, and evaluate strategies to reduce health disparities related to violence in Chicago. The project led to the development of tools and guidance on how best to ensure community input in violence prevention research strategies.

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