Mutual of America
2020 Community Partnership Award Winners
Choose to Change
Father and son having a conversation on porch steps

Children exposed to violence don’t always have physical scars, but they often have emotional and psychological ones. They’re more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and suffer from depression and anxiety; they’re also more likely to exhibit dangerous behavior that can lead to juvenile justice system involvement. Young people can move on from traumatic events and thrive, but they often need a helping hand to do so.

Choose to Change (C2C) is a homegrown collaboration between Children’s Home & Aid and Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) that aims to reduce criminal behavior and improve academic outcomes for at-risk 13- to 18-year-olds living in the south and west sides of Chicago. This innovative six-month intervention program, which won the University of Chicago Crime Lab’s prestigious 2015 Chicago Design Competition, combines trauma-informed cognitive behavioral therapy with holistic mentorship to help more than 600 youth process their trauma and develop tools to make healthier decisions in their lives.

Trust is an essential component of the program. Before any therapy or other services are offered, an advocate from YAP spends eight hours a week with the program participant doing one-on-one and group activities, and provides support to help the youth reconnect with school and identify positive family relationships. Once a strong mentoring relationship is formed, the advocate then accompanies the teen to trauma-informed therapy sessions led by a master’s-level therapist from Children’s Home & Aid. These group meetings help participants learn to better regulate their emotions, engage in helpful coping mechanisms, and build their problem-solving and communication skills.

“We’re thrilled to say that C2C shows great promise for reducing violent crime and improving educational attainment for at-risk youth,” said Michael Shaver, President and CEO of Children’s Home & Aid. “Based on the University of Chicago Crime and Education Labs’ evaluation of the program’s outcomes, the City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools have decided to expand this program to serve 2,000 more young people in 2020 and beyond.”

Children’s Home & Aid
Choose to Change
Youth Advocate Programs
University of Chicago Crime Lab and Education Lab