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Amplifying Voices of the Unheard: Utilizing Qualitative Methods to Explore the Views and Life Experiences of the DisenfranchisedEylin Palamaro Munsell, Melissa Strompolis, Katherine Strater, Virginia Johnson, Tanya Vishnevsky, James R. Cook and Ryan P. Kilmer13th Biennial Conference Society for Community Research and ActionChicago, IL, June 17th 2011

symposium overview


  • Self-Reported Needs of Children and Families enrolled in a System of Care: Informing System Change and Advocacy Efforts
  • A Photo Voice Project of Youth with Mental Health Issues
  • The Sense of Community and Family in a Youth Subculture: An Exploration of the Positive Aspects of Punk Rock

Self-Reported Needs of Children and Families: Informing System Change and Advocacy EffortsMelissa Strompolis, Katherine Strater, James R. Cook and Ryan P. Kilmer13th Biennial Conference Society for Community Research and ActionChicago, IL, June 17th 2011



  • System of Care
  • Data Collection
  • Needs Assessment
  • Focus Groups
  • Advocacy Efforts

System of Care

  • Designed to serve youth with SED and their families
  • SOC philosophy
    • Tailored to needs of youth and family, culturally competent, emphasizes natural supports
  • SOC practice approach
    • Wraparound: comprehensive and coordinated services
  • MeckCARES



  • National Evaluation of Systems of Care
  • Standardized Interviews
  • Informal Interviewer Observations

Needs Assessment

  • What do you feel your child is in most need of at this current time?
  • What do you feel your family is in most need of at this current time?

Needs Assessment

  • Coding Process
    • 216 caregivers with 394 responses
    • Responses entered into a spreadsheet
    • Two raters read, organized, labeled and condensed the responses
    • Responses were brought back to the team
    • 10 coding themes

Focus Group

  • Partnership with ParentVOICE
    • Identify families and provide space for event
    • Facilitate focus group
  • Presented themes to youth and caregivers separately
  • Focus Group discussion questions:
      • What do you think about the themes?
      • Do you agree with the themes?
      • Are the themes similar to your current needs?
      • What needs are you experiencing that are not on the list?

Focus Group

  • Caregiver Results
    • Confirmed that themes represented their current needs
    • Lack of Availability and Consistency of services
      • Mentoring
        • “There’s no father figure or other family members at home. It would be a great opportunity for her to connect to a mentor.”
      • After school activities
        • Emphasized the need for affordable programs
      • Services in general
        • “My problem is tapping into the services.”

Focus Group

  • Youth Results
    • Confirmed current needs were represented by the themes
      • Youth wanted to rename some themes
        • Essential → Mandatory
        • Life Management → Success, Survival, or Support
      • Youth disagreed with some individual items in each theme
        • Essential needs
        • Intermediate
      • Most important themes to youth
        • Essential needs
        • Family Support

Focus Group

  • Caregiver Feedback
    • Brief 14 item evaluation survey
    • Caregivers reported that
        • Themes addressed current needs
        • They had a voice in the focus group
        • Focus group was helpful
        • They would like to have more focus groups
        • “It was really good information. It was good to see MeckCARES is really trying to help their families.”

Future Directions

  • Lessons Learned
      • Families are not receiving adequate supports and services
      • Youth have distinct views
      • Importance of Voice and Empowerment
    • ParentVOICE
      • Advocacy efforts
    • Community Collaborative
      • Programmatic change recommendations


  • Special Thank You
    • MeckCARES Youth and Families
    • MeckCARES Staff
    • MeckCARES Evaluation Team
    • ParentVOICE Staff
  • Contact information
    • Melissa Strompolis:
    • Kate Strater: