CYCJ Strengths


CYCJ StrengthsCYCJ1-02


CYCJ works collaboratively with community partners to:

  • Conduct Action Research on  how best to meet community needs and assess the effectiveness of these programs
  • Provide Professional Education and Training to youth and community outreach workers, emphasizing trauma informed practices
  • Facilitate Dialogues to help amplify youth and community voices and increase collaborations among community groups
  • engage in Community Capacity Building through collaborative strategic planning

Many projects combine several of these elements.  Representative projects are listed below.

Action Research

Worcester Youth Violence Prevention Initiative

The Worcester Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (WYVPI) is the result of a comprehensive gang and youth violence assessment and citywide planning process that engaged hundreds of youth, adult residents and other stakeholders. The WYVPI builds on community strengths to address the needs of our highest risk youth from birth to early adulthood. Strategies aim to increase access to resources for high-risk youth and their families that are proven protective factors against violence and recidivism, eliminating structural violence, and promoting trust, safety, healing, and opportunities. CYCJ researchers facilitated the assessment and community engagement process.

Learn more 

Worcester ACTS

The Worcester Youth Violence Prevention Initiative community assessment revealed early childhood trauma as a major driver of youth violence in the City. Our research team examined the police records of 100 young men between 14 and 24 years old who had been identified by the police department as victims or perpetrators of gun or knife violence. We found that over 30% of these individuals had their first police contact before the age of 12, generally as a victim or witness. At least one-third of these young men were now fathers of infants and very young children. This glimpse into the cyclical and generational nature of violence among this group compelled the WYVPI leadership team to want to know more about the relationship between early trauma and later involvement in violence among Worcester males and what could be done to interrupt this cycle.  We worked with pediatricians, psychologists, early childhood educators, victim advocates, law enforcement, government, higher ed, and families on how to address this persistent problem. We met monthly in spring-summer 2016 and held a community workshop in fall 2016 to vet the model and get broader feedback and support. We involved five gang-involved men who had been victims and/or perpetrators of violence. They provided feedback on staffing, navigating law enforcement and DCF, and where services should take place.  This collaborative process led to the creation of Worcester Addresses Childhood Trauma (ACTs)—a strengths-based family centered program operating out of UMass Memorial Healthcare that builds family resilience and connection to community resources through the support of community health workers (CHWs).  Read more about this process

Professional Education & Training

Trauma Training Tuesday

The Tuesday Trauma Training Series is intended to build a more trauma informed community in Worcester by building knowledge about the impact trauma has on individuals and in communities throughout the life cycle. In each training, a local expert joins us to explore a specific aspect of trauma and resilience. When we understand traumatic experiences and build trauma informed systems, we will reap the benefits of a more connected and nurturing community. Our Director of Training & Clinical Services, Amy Ebbeson, leads these sessions every other Tuesday.

Youth Worker Training Institute 

The Youth Worker Training Institute emerged from a need for youth worker training in the city of Worcester. CYCJ’s Laurie Ross, Jen Safford, and Amy Ebbeson led the evaluation of all youth serving organizations and found there was a serious needs for professionalizing youth workers.

Today, Clark University, the HOPE Coalition and the CYCJ collaborate to conduct an annual Youth Worker Training Institute. The Institute is a 15-week comprehensive and meaningful professional development opportunity for youth workers.  Staff gain knowledge about positive youth development, build skills in program planning and implementation, learn more about the roles and responsibilities of youth workers, and develop a common understanding of the youth development approaches and local resources. Each session includes networking and resource sharing among the group. The Institute creates a path to earn a Certificate in Youth Work Practice at Clark University.

Dialogue Facilitation

Youth Resources Network 

The YRN emerged from Worcester’s Safe & Successful Youth Initiative and Shannon Community Safety Initiative in 2016 as a mechanism for Youth Workers and Case Managers to come together monthly with youth service providers and other sectors impacting youth and families. The goal is to offer information and face to face contacts to enable a smooth referral process and relationship building opportunities to enhance the capacity and effectiveness of case managers and outreach workers. Jen Safford, the Director of CYCJ’s Operations & Outreach, convenes the YRN.

The Network includes an email distribution list of 200 service providers to ensure that all youth related information, programs, events and job opportunities are distributed community-wide.

The YRN also serves as a space for community discussions related to youth violence prevention and intervention in the City of Worcester.

Clark University, the HOPE Coalition and the Collaborative for Youth and Community Justice (CYJCJ) collaborate to conduct an annual Youth Worker Training Institute.

Community Capacity Building

Collaborative Strategic Planning 

The Department of Youth Services, DYS Central Region, and the Department of Children and Families, DCF Worcester East Area Office, sought to build collaborative approaches when working with cross-over youth and their families. To do this, they wanted to cross train the leadership in their agencies’ missions and strategies, open dialogue on prevention planning, complete a gap analysis, and make recommendations for gap closing strategies that align with the Worcester Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (WYVPI) for the City of Worcester. Laurie Ross, CYCJ Director of Research and Accountability, engaged members of the CYCJ team to partner in this work.