Five major Chicago sports teams – the Bulls, Blackhawks, Bears, Cubs and Chicago White Sox – recently announced a combined contribution of $1 million to address community violence in Chicago. This funding, part of the newly formed Chicago Sports Alliance, will allow us to continue to provide Choose to Change (C2C) in coordination with Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. (YAP) and with continued program evaluation by The University of Chicago Crime Lab. C2C provides individual and group mentoring and group therapy to help teach youth to understand how their past traumas impact their current decision making with the goal of helping them improve decision making in future situations.

Starting in 2015, Children’s Home + Aid, in partnership with YAP, began C2C, which has served since then 440 youth – in four, 6-month cohorts – through group therapy and mentoring in Chicago’s Englewood and West Englewood neighborhoods. Over the course of two years, the program was studied by the University of Chicago Crime Lab and while final data isn’t yet available, what we’ve seen is incredibly encouraging. We learned that youth are receptive, open, and eager to a program that incorporates mentoring and therapy, and that this program has the ability to make a positive impact in very short amount of time.

We believe this program is effective because of its unique approach. We work with youth to figure out what’s happened in their past in order to help them make better informed decisions in the future. Through group therapy, youth have the opportunity to learn from each other’s shared experiences. Not only is the therapist present during the group sessions, but so are the mentors. This relationship-based approach allows therapists and mentors to speak the same language and enforce the same skills even outside of therapy.

Children’s Home + Aid is incredibly grateful and excited to be part of this joint effort to combat violence. We look forward to continuing this data-driven program and helping strengthen the lives of youth who’ve been affected by violence.