JPA's History of Service to Chicago's Children
JPA has played a fundamental role in protecting and serving Chicago's children and families since 1901. Founded by Jane Addams and her colleagues during the Progressive Era, JPA reflects their desire to uplift society and their belief in the possibility of reform.
In its earliest incarnation, JPA provided the city’s first probation officers for children. As society began to assume this role, JPA continued to provide children and families with better living conditions and opportunities for wholesome play (opening up the Chicago beachfront, for example).
Throughout its history, JPA has addressed child abuse and neglect. This work led to the creation of new laws protecting women and children, the formation of the Department of Children and Families Services, and the adoption of more effective child welfare practices based on JPA research. To accommodate children’s changing needs over time, JPA also began to offer mental health services at its offices for children and families affected by trauma and abuse who did not otherwise have access to mental health facilities.
Over a dozen years ago, JPA received a request to participate in a school-based educational pilot in North Lawndale, a Chicago neighborhood where poverty, crime, and unemployment are endemic. We found that elementary and middle school children affected by trauma and abuse had difficulty learning and functioning in school, yet were not receiving in-depth mental health care that might ameliorate their fears and anxieties so they could focus on their lessons. We began providing school-based therapy for these children, ensuring they could get the help they needed. Ever since we have based our programs in the schools and neighborhoods where they are most needed, an approach Jane Addams would appreciate.
JPA has expanded this and created other programs over the years to serve communities primarily on the west and south sides of Chicago, most of whose residents are African American and Hispanic living at or below the poverty level. Today, we collaborate with over 23 schools and community centers.
JPA has also developed programs, interventions, and practice models affecting entire schools and systems, enabling us to serve more than 2,500 vulnerable children and their families annually. In 2016, JPA received a $1 million grant from the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation for Connect to Kindergarten (C2K), which showed teachers how to help children make successful transitions to Kindergarten. This pilot's success now informs our expansion of the program to elementary and middle school children as Connect to Kids.
JPA also conducts research on children and trauma. JPA researchers have produced scholarly articles contributing to improving child abuse and neglect prevention policies and practices across the nation. Our clinical staff members assist DCFS, foster care organizations, and the courts in determining appropriate placements for children in care, as well.
For 118 years, JPA programs and services have evolved even as it has stayed true to its mission to improve the social and emotional well-being and functioning of vulnerable children and families.