Influencing policy, practice to help children and families
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The University of Iowa is one of five academic institutions partnering to create the Tanager Place Research Center.
Tanager Place, a non-profit agency in Cedar Rapids with a more than 100-year-history of serving children with behavioral, psychological, or emotional challenges, announced the opening of the center at a press conference today, Tuesday, Sept. 25.
Coe College, Cornell College, Mount Mercy University, and St. Ambrose University are the other four institutions that are part of this unique partnership.
College of Education associate professor Volker Thomas talks with some of his students in his family-based play therapy course. Photo courtesy of Kirk Murray.
"The Tanager Place Research Center fits the outreach mission of the University of Iowa and the College of Education," says Volker Thomas, associate professor and coordinator/director of the Couple and Therapy Program in the UI College of Education's Rehabilitation and Counselor Education Department. "The collaboration will provide opportunities to offer community-based family therapy interventions and conduct research testing the effectiveness of those interventions."
The center's goal is to facilitate research that has the potential to expand knowledge and positively affect children and families, according to Joan Hackbarth, Tanager Place director of community relations.
"Tanager Place is excited to launch this new initiative that will blend the strengths of the local academic arena with the pool of research data available through Tanager's programs," Hackbarth says. "Our goal is to grow an extensive body of new research that can help impact practice and policy and positively affect children and their families for generations to come."
Areas of potential impact are wide-ranging, and could include new research findings on how children respond to expressive art techniques, how children and their families gain access to mental health care, the success indicators for outpatient and inpatient programs, and a diverse range of research possibilities. The research center will allow for a robust new framework of data and has the potential to improve methods of treatment in a variety of settings.
Tanager Place staff are developing working relationships with faculty at each of these academic institutions. They have created a research advisory council drawn from faculty at research universities and liberal arts colleges in the Midwest. Membership also includes representatives from three other local agencies.
A fellowship program for faculty and their students will also be a major part of the new research center.
"This partnership will allow faculty and students access to certain populations as well as to data and financial resources for conducting research during summers and the academic year, " Hackbarth says.
Thomas says the UI College of Education welcomed four doctoral students into its new Couple and Family Therapy (CFT) program this fall with plans to admit four more students in fall of 2013.
"My plan is to have at least two to three Couple and Family Therapy program doctoral students, two counseling psychology doctoral students, and some undergraduate students work on projects in collaboration with the Tanager Place Research Center," Thomas says.
The results of the research will then be shared with interested parties, including policymakers. The hope, Hackbarth says, is that this will positively influence both practice and policy.
"This will encourage knowledge development and, ultimately, help better serve youth and families who need it most," Hackbarth says. "We're very excited about this opportunity to truly make a difference."