UCLA Family Commons: Coaching Children on Social Skills and Parents on Handling Family Issues

Dates of Project: November 15, 2008 through August 31, 2013

Description: At two sites in the Los Angeles area, the project, directed by staff from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior, embedded practices and principles from evidence-based social and emotional learning programs into classes, workshops, and fun activities such as summer camp, Zumba, yoga, and martial arts.

Professional and paraprofessional staff used these opportunities to “coach” children on such things as improving their social skills and parents on how to deal with specific issues affecting families, such as school bullying or the aftermath of divorce. At the school site, another major focus was obesity.

“People are more likely to seek out and respond to coaching because it offers practical help for getting through the limitations of life. And it’s more accessible and more affordable.”—Nancy Barrand, Senior Adviser for Program Development, RWJF

Key Results

  • Over three years the UCLA Family Commons in Santa Monica engaged some 4,500 children and families in preventive mental health activities. The center closed in June 2013.

  • At the RFK schools, as of January 2013, some 1,500 kindergarten through 5th-grade students in 51 classrooms (out of 55 classrooms) have participated in social skills workshops. Teachers and parents credited the workshops with changes in children’s behavior and interactions with others. With funding through UniHealth Foundation and volunteer assistance, many of the programs at the RFK Schools will continue through the end of 2014.

  • The project team determined that a “site-specific” model of family prevention services could not be easily diffused nationally. In 2013, they created a business plan for diffusion through the Web to both families and paraprofessionals who interact with children and families.