Frank Fincham, scholar and director of FSU’s Family Institute, has contributed his expertise in relationship education and youth high-risk behavior to the UofL-based program, which was created in 2011 through a five-year, $4.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
CHAMPS (Creating Healthy Adolescents through Meaningful Prevention Services) works with community youth-serving organizations to help teenagers avoid unhealthy relationships and risky behavior.
“The CHAMPS program represents the very best that action research can offer and will provide critical information to address an important public health concern,” Fincham said. “I look forward to strengthening my ties with colleagues at UofL even further now that we are both in the same conference.”
Anita Barbee, the Kent School of Social Work professor who heads the program, said Fincham helped the research group develop questionnaire measures that participants complete, reviewed materials and advised on plans for publishing results from the randomized controlled trial study. He has visited UofL twice to meet with the faculty-staff research team about relationship-building with young people and other aspects of the grant, most recently when UofL hosted the International Association for Relationship Research conference last year.
CHAMPS tests the impact of two teaching programs about risky sexual behavior, with the intent to reduce teen pregnancy, violence and sexually transmitted diseases.
CHAMPS has served 1,450 people aged 14-19, most of whom were involved in 20 community-based organizations participating with UofL in this effort. The groups serve urban youths, immigrant and refugee youths and former foster-care youths.
The teenagers signed up to be in a relationship communication course, delivered during two daylong consecutive Saturday CHAMPS Camps; researchers follow up with them at intervals for several years to see which of two courses works better to cut down on harmful behavior. The courses, “Reducing The Risk” and “Love Notes,” are designed to promote healthy nonviolent relationships, self-confidence and positive communication skills. Teenagers in a control group used the community-action course “The Power of We.” The team also has surveyed about 500 of their parents.
“We’ve got lots of measures to see what works best for whom and why,” Barbee said, adding that Fincham helped the team develop several of those.
“So far preliminary data show these interventions are effective,” she said. The program continues through 2015.