LIfeskills and WKU's Center For Child Welfare Education And Research Announce Five-year Partnership
- Monday, July 19th, 2021
LifeSkills, a private nonprofit that delivers social services to an 18-county region, has entered into a five-year partnership with the Center for Child Welfare Education and Research, part of the WKU College of Health and Human Services (CHHS).
In recognition of this multiyear partnership, the Center will be known as the LifeSkills Center for Child Welfare Education and Research (LCCWEAR). As part of this agreement, support from LifeSkills will be used for a manager for the Center, a graduate research assistant, and support for research and scholarship. The College will provide an additional graduate research assistant and the physical space for the Center, which will now be located at the “Doctoral House” on the corner of Regents Avenue and Normal Street on WKU’s campus.
Established in 2019, the Center facilitates applied research focused on improving family and child well-being by supporting exceptional child welfare practice through research and education. Through its work, the Center is organizing an alliance of multidisciplinary professionals with diverse backgrounds and skills to address comprehensive social problems, including child maltreatment, sexual assault and domestic violence, and the impact of generational poverty and substance use.
Dr. Austin Griffiths (’06, ’11), an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Work, is also the Director of the Center. Dr. Griffiths is passionate about improving the lives of vulnerable children and their families, as well as supporting and advocating for a healthy and vibrant child welfare workforce.
“We are thrilled to announce this partnership with LifeSkills, a dedicated leader in premium healthcare services in Kentucky, which was developed through our strong relationship with Mr. Joe Dan Beavers and his leadership team,” said Dr. Griffiths. “We share a vision of improving the community through innovation, collaboration and service.”
“We have had a working relationship with Dr. Griffiths for some time and he was really the catalyst for this partnership,” said Joe Dan Beavers (’01), President and CEO of LifeSkills. “His excitement and passion for this work is contagious.”
Beavers added that he and other leaders at LifeSkills have been interested in finding ways to connect with the WKU College of Health and Human Services, and they hope this is just the beginning of what the organizations can do together.
“Kentucky continues to have the highest rate of child maltreatment in the country, and the significant support from this partnership will improve the lives of children and families across the Commonwealth,” said Dr. Griffiths. “We continually speak with individuals and agencies who believe in our interdisciplinary work, and this partnership gives us the necessary infrastructure to move forward with these opportunities.”
The Center, which was Kentucky’s first center for child welfare, aspires to become a catalyst for translational research by offering students the opportunity to actively contribute to multidisciplinary activities that are designed to improve the lives of Kentucky’s families and children in five key pillar areas: education and training; workforce development; policy and advocacy; collaboration and partnerships; and family and child well-being.
“The ‘translational research’ aspect of the Center is key,” said Dr. Griffiths. “We are conducting applied research, and it’s important that we actively share our findings with more than our academic colleagues. We create one-pagers, infographics, videos, tip sheets, tutorials and use other creative means to break down the barriers of restricted access and ensure that we are effectively disseminating our work to those who need it.”
“Dr. Griffiths and his team at the Center are conducting cutting-edge research, and I feel strongly that this research will help change the trajectory for some of the most vulnerable children in our communities,” said Beavers.
LifeSkills offers an intensive array of services in south central Kentucky to serve children and adults with a wide range of mental health concerns, addiction and intellectual disabilities as they build meaningful and independent lives. Through the partnership, LifeSkills clinical teams will be able to apply new findings of the Center into their daily work, providing best-in-class research from the community for the community.
“The LifeSkills partnership is the perfect example of a mutually beneficial community-academic partnership,” said Dr. Tania Basta, Dean of the College of Health and Human Services. “In CHHS, we prepare health and human services professionals who will work to improve the quality of life in their communities and beyond. This partnership certainly aligns with our new mission and operationalizes some of the goals in our strategic plan, including enhancing research productivity, enhancing community engagement and increasing interprofessional opportunities for faculty and students.
“I believe this partnership will increase faculty and student recruitment efforts because Dr. Griffiths and his faculty are building a child welfare research center that will attract talented students and faculty to WKU,” added Dr. Basta.
Beavers echoed Dr. Basta’s hope that the Center will also serve as a tool to recruit WKU students.
“In turn, we hope that some of those students learn more about community mental health and want to start their careers with agencies like ours,” said Beavers. “By working closer with the College and the University, I know we will find additional applied research opportunities.
“I also hope we can demonstrate to the country that world-class research and life-changing clinical work is happening right here in south central Kentucky,” added Beavers.
CHHS leadership foresees other possible partnerships with child welfare professionals and agencies, victim service providers and organizations, academic researchers, training consortiums, educational organizations, child advocacy organizations and others in and adjacent to this field.
“We are truly grateful for this gift from LifeSkills, as it demonstrates their commitment to change the lives of children and their families,” said Dr. Basta.
LifeSkills has locations in Allen, Barren, Butler, Edmonson, Hart, Logan, Metcalfe, Monroe, Simpson and Warren counties. Through a merger with the Pennyroyal Center in 2020, LifeSkills also provides services in Caldwell, Christian, Crittenden, Hopkins, Lyon, Muhlenberg, Todd and Trigg counties.
For more information, contact Dr. Austin Griffiths at (270) 745-2676.