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Boston College Expert: Obama's Program for Young Black Men

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Janet Helms

Janet Helms
Augustus Long Professor
Lynch School of Education
Director, Institute for the Study and Promotion of Race and Culture
(617) 416-5158 (cell)

Janet Helms is the founder of the Institute for the Study of Race and Culture at Boston College. Her area of focus is in racial identity, psychological testing and assessment, racial and cultural counseling, and psychotherapy. She is the author of  four books including, A Race Is a Nice Thing to Have: A Guide to Being A White Person or Understanding the White Persons in Your Life and the co-author of two books, including Using Race and Culture in Counseling and Psychotherapy: Theory and Process.


In a bid to keep more young black men on the road to success, President Obama is introducing a new initiative that seeks to bring in business and civic leaders to help with the effort, but some experts in the field say it doesn’t go far enough.

“It will make some difference because at least it is getting people focusing on the issues but the problem is it’s taking such a traditional approach to focusing on those issues,” says Boston College Psychologist Janet Helms. “I think you have to combine tradition with some innovative kinds of ways to reach these young people. It’s commendable there is now going to be a focus on trying to help black young men to have opportunities in society. But it doesn’t focus very much on the environment and how that affects the lives of these young people.

“As I look at the Obama initiative, there’s nothing in there about mental health services or support services for these young people and I think that’s a significantly missing issue,” says Helms, Director of the Institute for the Study of Race and Culture at Boston College. “We know that in most urban localities there are high death rates for black men and these black men have children and there are essentially no services in the schools that help them deal with that kind of trauma. If you look at the urban lives of black kids in general, you find there are all sorts of issues that happen in their lives that require mental health services but there are no mental health services in the schools that help them deal with those issue. Or the mental health services are so over stretched and don’t have enough staff that they cannot get around to deal with those issues.

“We really have to get the government to think about these young people as consumers rather than products so what is it about the lives they are living that we can intervene in to help them have healthier and happier lives? And so far I don’t really see that in the initiative.”


Media Note: Contact information for additional Boston College faculty sources on a range of subjects is available at: /offices/pubaf/journalist/experts.html


Sean Hennessey
Associate Director
Office of News and Public Affairs
Boston College

(617) 552-3630 (office)
(617) 943-4323 (cell)