U-M to continue creating healthy, supportive Detroit neighborhoods

November 26, 2007

ANN ARBOR—Faculty members in the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work will continue helping several Detroit area neighborhoods become healthy and supportive places for children through a second $900,000 grant from The Skillman Foundation.

Detroit-based Skillman teamed with the School of Social Work to cultivate the Good Neighborhoods initiative, which works with city residents to develop child-friendly communities where children can grow up healthy, well-educated, safe and prepared for adulthood. The foundation awarded the first grant in October 2005.

“We are extremely pleased to continue our partnership with the Skillman Foundation in its efforts to use empirical evidence and the voices of community residents to improve community conditions, both social and economic, that will advance the well-being of Detroit children and their families,” said Paula Allen-Meares, dean of the School of Social Work and a principal investigator for the school’s work on the project. “This is a rich and deep partnership in which there is a shared ideology, purpose, and commitment.”

Good Neighborhoods initiative is a 10-year program in six selected Detroit neighborhoods that were chosen based on their high concentration of children, multiple needs and community commitment to addressing the problems. The effort involves the foundation, U-M social work faculty, community organizations, stakeholders, and community members.

Carol Goss, president and chief executive officer of the Skillman Foundation, said she’s been pleased with the School of Social Work’s involvement with the initiative.

“The Michigan team, led on the ground by Professor Larry Gant, has played a critical role in gathering important data, providing technical assistance to the program and to ordinary Detroiters, and marshalling a great deal of intellectual firepower for the program,” Goss said. “Our work, which we believe is a critical component to transforming Detroit into a place where children can thrive, has a better chance of success because of our close alliance with the University of Michigan.”

Faculty members have provided residents with information and data about their community, allowing residents to develop educated and informed community goals. From these goals, the faculty assist community members with developing and implementing strategies to achieve these goals.

As a result, positive change is happening. At a recent community meeting, residents reported increased visibility of police patrols and identified increased commercial and housing development. Residents also report greater community participation in neighborhood efforts to maintain clean and attractive public areas.

Faculty also help residents and organizations identify services that will most effectively meet the needs of the community, along with providing workshops and a speaker’s series to further community knowledge and capacity. These community-shaped priorities helped define and focus approximately $10 million of program and service funding in four of the six communities, with planning continuing through late 2008. Change initiatives address community challenges in education, housing, community safety and security and economic development at individual, institutional and structural levels.

They also provide training, mentoring, and grant-writing help. The School of Social Work’s Technical Assistance Team supplies data retrieval and analysis, along with research expertise.

The School of Social Work, in partnership with the Skillman Foundation, will hold a forum on economic development Jan. 11, 2008, at the U-M Detroit Center. Featured will be a distinguished set of speakers with expertise in both macro-economic trends and micro-economic practice, as well as persons with a deep understanding of potential opportunities and challenges facing the city of Detroit.

Social work faculty include Paula Allen-Meares, co-principal investigator Larry Gant, and co-investigators Leslie Hollingsworth and Trina Shanks.


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