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CYFC Monthly

CYFC Monthly — November 2015

Teaching and Learning with Case Studies: Making Content Come Alive

By Cari Michaels, Extension Educator — CYFC

Many of us teach students and other professionals about the complex and sometimes emotional issues facing children and families. Children grow up facing societal, community and family challenges of poverty, racial disparities, violence, political unrest, and other threats to safety and security. At the same time, they experience loving relationships and healthy growth, and they develop incredible resilience. Thus, questions arise, including: How can we teach other professionals about the challenging issues facing children and families in a way that honors the complexity of their lives? How can we engage learners so they see how each one of them has a part to play in helping families raise emotionally healthy children? One important tool in these efforts is the use of web-based case studies.

Children, Youth & Family Consortium (CYFC) staff and educators create and teach from web-based case studies designed to engage interdisciplinary groups of learners in deep discussion about children, the settings in which they live and grow, and the professionals who serve them. While “cases” can be either factual or fictionalized, they all describe real-life situations involving children and families in which questions or problems arise.

Value of Learning Together

Often a case includes related research or information that further explains what is happening in the story but does not offer analysis or judgment. The learner’s role is to understand the characters, issues, questions and related data and make decisions about the best course of action. The real value of case study learning is realized when learners bring their combined experiences, perspectives and varied opinions to bear on the case and the decision-making process.

Through structured discussion, learners participate in a truly interdisciplinary experience and practice problem-solving in ways that incorporate many points of view. This interdisciplinary examination brings the theories, perspectives and research of many fields to bear on a single story. Children’s needs cannot be met within the perspectives of a single discipline. The complex problems children face require solutions that integrate the best of many areas of inquiry and diverse ways of knowing.

As instructors, we have an abundance of research to support teaching in mental health, social work, education, public health, child development and other areas related to child development. What we need are varied and innovative teaching techniques that make complex issues come alive for learners. Use of case studies is one of those innovative techniques.

Current Case Focuses on Adolescent Depression

CYFC staff and educators currently teach with a case study entitled “About Steven: A Children’s Mental Health Case Study About Depression” (full case is available on the CYFC website). The case tells the story of Steven from before birth to age 15, highlighting the experiences and relationships he has with people around him. This socio-ecological context sets the stage for and is a critical influence throughout Steven’s development. The case also examines Steven’s experiences from a developmental perspective, highlighting that behavior that is appropriate at one stage might signify an unmet need at another stage.

Adolescents have accumulated years of experiences that can affect their mental health. An individual’s state of mental health is likely to change frequently during the childhood and adolescent years, and case study learners practice recognizing the points of intervention and the consequences when children’s needs are not met. They discuss likely outcomes for children based on the formal and informal services they receive. Significantly, learners also practice using research when making decisions about working with children and adolescents. Learners are prompted to review pertinent online research in order to respond to questions before moving on to the next segment of the case. Based on their choices, learners receive feedback about the impact on the child and family members, as well as the professionals working with the child.

New Case Focuses on Infant, Early Childhood Mental Health

In 2016, CYFC will complete a case specific to infant and early childhood mental health. Like the current and past cases, the new case incorporates the latest research and best practices in the mental health field. Also like other cases, it was written with the participation of dozens of professionals in the Twin Cities and nationwide who identified relevant research, practices and perspectives from their disciplines.

Unique to this new case, teaching will begin through partnerships between CYFC staff and organizations working closely with providers of infant and early childhood services. The case is being inserted into existing curricula, training sessions, and professional development events so that infant and early childhood providers have the opportunity to pursue in-depth and interdisciplinary study.

To learn more about either case and opportunities for teaching or partnership, contact Cari Michaels at

Consortium News

New Children's Mental Health eReview Highlights Coparenting
What is coparenting? How can parents support their children during and after a divorce or separation? Learn how coparent education can help mitigate the adverse effects of divorce and separation on children. Read “Children in Common: Ensuring the Emotional Well-Being of Children when Parenting Apart,” and then complete this survey to let us know what you think!

CYFC’s Sara Langworthy Publishes Book on Children Facing Adversity
CYFC educator Sara Langworthy, Ph.D., has written “Bridging the Relationship Gap: Connecting with Children Facing Adversity.” The book discusses the science of how stress and trauma affect the development of young children’s brains and behaviors. The book also includes real-world scenarios, scientific research, and useful strategies from experts for use by people working with young children facing adversity. Finally, the book provides tools and offers encouragement to early childhood care providers to be the strong, positive, and nurturing adults children need in order to thrive. For additional videos and resources, visit Sara Langworthy’s website.

CYFC’s Cari Michaels to Present on Historical Trauma and Clinical Practice
Sponsor: Cultural Providers Network
Date: December 10, 2015
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Cost: Free
Explore the implications of historical trauma and microaggressions on clinical work through a series of short videos and a presentation at the next CPN meeting. Participate in conversation and brainstorming around ways that clinicians can incorporate these concepts into their daily work, share it with colleagues and clients, and work to craft policies that better account for the realities of those who have experienced historical trauma. Learn more on the Cultural Providers Network website.

More CYFC News
CYFC Research Assistant Nora Fox wrote the most recent entry of the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners blog, titled “Giving Thanks for the Garden.”

How Do we Support Coparenting in Youth Work?,” written by CYFC’s Sara Langworthy, was published in the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development’s “Insight” blog.

CYFC’s work about the effects of parental incarceration on children was cited in a recent article in the Atlantic titled “How Parental Incarceration Affects a Child’s Education.” Read more about the research cited in the Atlantic article in this edition of the CYFC Children’s Mental Health eReview.

University & Community Announcements

Addressing Gender in School, Work, and Family — Conference
Sponsor: Minnesota Council on Family Relations (MCFR) and Extension Center for Family Development
Date: December 4, 2015
Location: New Brighton, MN and sites across Minnesota

Jenifer McGuire, Ph.D., University of Minnesota associate professor, will discuss her research on gender development and transgender youth at this conference, which will be useful to educators, practitioners, policymakers, scholars and community agencies. You may attend the entire day-long conference in person, or view the first half via broadcasts throughout Minnesota. Please join us to learn about:

Learn more and register on the MCFR website.

Online Courses for Professionals
Sponsor: University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development
Cost: Free
Location: Online

Professionals can receive free online training in parent education, financial resource management, and health and nutrition from the Center for Family Development (FD). You will receive a certificate of completion after completing a course. See all of the offerings on the “Online Courses for Professionals” page of the FD website.

Children & Nature Network 2016 Conference to Take Place in St. Paul
Sponsor: Children & Nature Network and Minnesota Children & Nature Connection
Dates: May 24-May 27, 2016
Cost: $150-$395
Location: St. Paul, MN

Join Dr. Gail Christopher, Mayor Chris Coleman, and Richard Louv for an opportunity to connect with leaders from around the world to hear what is being done to create “nature-rich” communities. The latest research and policies will be presented and sessions will feature health and urban planning experts. Learn more and register on the Children & Nature Network website.

Mental Health Outcomes of Youth with and Incarcerated Parent — Forum
Sponsor: Strengthening Families Affected by Incarceration Collaborative
Date: December 10, 2015
Cost: Free but registration required
Location: St. Paul, MN

Learn about the mental health of Minnesota youth who have experienced parental incarceration. Pauline Boss, Ph.D., will share her research work on ambiguous loss as it relates to youth affected by incarceration. New findings on the mental health outcomes of Minnesota youth impacted by incarceration will also be presented. Learn more and register on the Strengthening Families Affected by Incarceration Collaborative website. [no longer active]

Managing the Pitfalls and Dilemmas in Treating Children and Families Experiencing High Conflict — Workshop
Sponsor: Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health (MACMH)
Date: December 7, 2015
Cost: $89
Credits: 3 continuing education units
Location: Eagan, MN

This advanced-level workshop for professionals will address the challenges faced by mental health practitioners working with families experiencing high levels of parental conflict. Participants will identify dilemmas they encounter when treating high-conflict families. Case studies will be used to present strategies and best practices for treatment. Learn more and register on the MACMH website.

Job Opportunities

Headway Emotional Services — Multiple Openings

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