In response to a 2015 Design Competition, as part of an initiative launched by the University of Chicago Crime Lab and Education Lab to crowdsource youth violence prevention interventions from across the city, Brightpoint (formerly Children’s Home & Aid) and YAP jointly created C2C: Your Mind, Your Game. C2C is a six-month intervention offering youth intensive wraparound and mentoring services that focus on addressing each young person’s specific needs, along with trauma-informed CBT that helps youth process their trauma and develop a new set of decision-making tools.
Youth in the C2C program receive intensive mentoring from advocates from Youth Advocate Programs. Advocates are professionally trained mentors who come from backgrounds and communities similar to those of the youth they mentor. This allows them to develop strong personal relationships, which are crucial for engaging youth in all aspects of the program. In addition to the mentoring relationship, Advocates provide wraparound support for youth and their families/caregivers in the participants’ homes and communities. This includes a broad spectrum of services, from helping youth obtain basic necessities to motivation and direction on larger goals, such as employment and college. On average, Advocates dedicate eight hours a week to supporting a young person.
2015 – present
Scientific Director, Inclusive Economy Lab; Senior Research Associate, Harris School of Public Policy
Senior Research Director
Research Director, Inclusive Economy Lab
Choose to Change Research Brief
Read this brief to learn more about the Crime Lab and Education Lab’s evaluation of the Choose to Change program.
Choose to Change Website
Learn more about the Choose to Change program at the provider’s website.
Over the six months of the program, youth are also connected to clinically trained therapists from Brightpoint (formerly Children’s Home & Aid) that lead 12-16 group trauma-informed CBT sessions, the foundation of which is based on an intervention called SPARCS (Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress). The therapy aims to help youth regulate their emotions and understand how past traumatic experiences or chronic stress can impact their thinking and behavior. Through exercises and conversation, youth learn to challenge unhelpful thinking, develop more resilient coping mechanisms to address stressors and build problem-solving and communication skills.
In 2015, the Crime Lab and Education Lab launched a large-scale randomized controlled trial aimed at answering a vitally important policy question: whether intensive support services, coupled with trauma-informed cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can effectively improve outcomes for the highest-risk youth. Over 4.5 years, 2,074 youth were randomized to treatment and control groups over the course of 4+ years (from 2015-2019). 1,052 were randomized to treatment and offered the C2C program, and 1,022 youth were randomized to the control group. Within the 1,052 youth offered C2C in the treatment group, 657 youth decided to take up C2C services (a 62% take-up rate).
Preliminary justice system outcomes show that C2C significantly reduces the probability of having any arrest for a violent crime by about 33% in the two years and a half years after randomization. Additionally, preliminary education outcomes show that C2C increases school attendance by one full week and reduces school misconduct by 33%.
In 2020, randomization for the C2C study concluded, but analysis is ongoing to measure the persistent impact of Choose to Change up to 2 years post-randomization. With support from Chicago Public Schools, the C2C program has continued to scale and serve young people. Additionally, Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. and Brightpoint expanded the program to four Chicago community-based organizations to deliver C2C-informed programming.
The C2C research team continues to disseminate research findings and now has updated criminal justice outcome results covering 36 months post-randomization for the entire study sample. The findings continue to show strong promise for the program’s ability to reduce justice system contact and reduce violence involvement in the longer-term.
How to End the Cycle of Violence in Chicago
Public policy professor and New York Times contributor David L. Kirp discusses the Crime Lab and Education Lab’s evaluation of Choose to Change (C2C), a program implemented by Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) and Brightpoint (formerly Children’s Home & Aid) that provides mentoring and therapy to disrupt the cycle of violence in Chicago.
Choose to Change program supporting high-risk CPS students expands to Bronzeville, Humboldt Park
The Choose to Change program’s expansion to Bronzeville and Humboldt Park is highlighted in this article.
Centering Youth in Community Violence Interventions as Part of a Comprehensive Approach to Countering Gun Violence
Preliminary findings from our evaluation of the Choose to Change program are referenced in a this Center for American Progress article authored by Terrell Thomas and Rachael Eisenberg.