A two-year, $500,000 grant from Boston Children’s Hospital will fund a partnership between the Boston College School of Social Work and Boston Public Schools to provide mental health services and support to Black and Latinx children.

The grant supports the creation of an Integrated Supervision Initiative at BPS in which experienced Black and Latinx social workers are matched with recently graduated Black and Latinx social workers. The latter group will receive one-on-one supervision and coaching to strengthen their professional skills to better serve Black and Latinx children and families. Both cohorts also will receive supervision training at BCSSW.

A joint effort between BCSSW’s award-winning Latinx Leadership Initiative and the school’s recently launched Black Leadership Initiative, the BPS project addresses disparities in mental health care for Latinx and Black children and families—an inequality that has been exacerbated by the pandemic, according to ISI co-investigators Rocío Calvo and Tyrone M. Parchment.

Integrated Supervision Initiative team

Boston College School of Social Work colleagues (L-R) Rocío Calvo, Ximena Soto, Tyrone Parchment, and Lujuana Milton will run the Integrated Supervision Initiative. (Photo by Caitlin Cunningham)

“Black and Latinx children have experienced more death, disease, and economic disruption than other children, which has worsened their mental health and further limited their access to care,” said Calvo, an associate professor and founding director of the LLI, which in 2020 was recognized by Excelencia! in Education for accelerating the educational success of Latinx students.

"Black and Latinx children are three times more likely to access mental health services in schools than in clinical settings. School-based social workers identify needs, provide direct services, and provide links to external resources that promote child mental health and family well-being. High-quality supervision is essential for the professional development of social work professionals, and to improve children’s mental health outcomes. However, it is rarely approached as a distinct professional competence that requires intentional training.”

The Latinx Leadership Initiative model, Calvo noted, utilizes LLI alumni as field supervisors of current LLI students as they follow a training model of ethnic, culture, and language concordance; under the direction of LLI Assistant Director Ximena Soto, BCSSW trains the LLI alumni in supervising students. This ongoing connection with alumni gave the LLI leadership insight into the mental health crisis among Latinx children exacerbated by COVID-19, she said, and pointed up the need for ethnically and linguistically concordant supervision.

Knowing that the situation was similar for Black children in BPS, LLI invited their colleagues from the Black Leadership Initiative to join them in devising a project that would answer community health advocates’ call for proposals to tackle the mental health crisis for underserved children and families. Part-time faculty member and BLI program coordinator Lujuana Milton ’06, M.S.W. ’07—who is president of the BCSSW Alumni Board—will join Soto in running the training program.

The ISI collaboration is the latest venture for the BLI, which was launched last fall. During the BLI’s first months, Parchment designed an Afrocentric social work field of practice and accompanying course that acknowledges, appreciates, centers on, and supports the behavioral process of the African diaspora while paying attention to African-oriented philosophy, beliefs, values, and rituals as the basis of a healthy life. In addition, he and BLI co-director Assistant Professor Samuel L. Bradley Jr. conceived a Black Leadership Certificate program with courses focused on the history of activism in Black communities and Afrocentric organizations.  

“It is pivotal to expand the knowledge base and training in culturally grounded practice for and with individuals of the African diaspora to the current and future mental health workforce,” said Parchment. “If we want to improve the provision of mental and social services among Black and Latinx communities, it is pivotal to embed cultural and linguistic responsive treatment, supervision, and training.”  

Calvo and Parchment note that the ISI’s value will endure well beyond the immediate crisis. The initiative’s ultimate goal is to develop foundational interventions for improving Black and Latinx children’s mental health in the school setting.

“We are developing a full research agenda with this research question in mind,” said Calvo.

BCSSW Dean Gautam Yadama expressed enthusiasm for the ISI. “Our partnership with BPS, combined with innovative supervision pathways to strengthen the provision of linguistic and culturally competent mental health services to Black and Latinx children and families in the BPS system, is bold and path-breaking.”

Sean Smith | University Communications | May 2022