Monday, August 26, 2019

New Lab Trains Welfare Workers Who Probe Child Abuse Claims

The troubling scene inside the dingy Chicago apartment seems real: dangling exposed wires, open pill bottles near a sleeping baby and a kitchen strewn with dog feces and cockroaches. But the mock apartment — with a lifelike infant doll, candles emitting foul smells and plastic insects — is part of a new simulation lab to train workers who investigate child abuse claims across Illinois.

"Sometimes textbooks, they sugarcoat things. Teachers sugarcoat things, but this is real life," said Beth Brown of Murphysboro, who recently trained at the so-called "dirty apartment." ''This is what you're going to experience."

Illinois' use of such experiential training focused on child welfare workers is being held up by experts as a national leader as the state plans to expand with a third simulation lab and its university experts write new research on the topic.

The use of simulation training isn't unusual for first-responders: Many medical schools have opened multimillion-dollar facilities. However, it's a newer concept in child welfare, said Victor Vieth, a longtime expert who has trained child protective workers nationwide.

The first child welfare simulation labs emerged roughly 15 years ago at universities.

The first lab opened in 2016 inside a home on the University of Illinois Springfield campus that was a gift.

Some experts suggest the simulation training could help, particularly with burnout. Illinois researchers are studying data from the centers.

UIS professor Betsy Goulet, who helped design the centers, said early signs suggest trainees are less likely to leave.

For Brown, 40, the simulations are refreshing after the classroom. "It's not something that a teacher can tell you what to do," she said. "This is something you need to experience in order to get better and understand the job."

This article appeared in U.S. News & World Report on August 23, 2019.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Pence, Zimmerman take Abe’s Amble victories

Springfield’s Tyler Pence won his fourth straight overall men’s title in record fashion, while Petersburg’s Emily Zimmerman won her first women’s championship in the 42nd annual Abe’s Amble 10-kilometer road race on Sunday morning at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Pence, preparing for his first year as head track and cross country coach at the University of Illinois Springfield, took the men’s race in a course-record 31 minutes 25.7 seconds on Sunday.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on August 18, 2019.

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UIS students met with rainy welcome back to school

Incoming freshmen at the University of Illinois Springfield had a very rainy welcome to campus on Tuesday.

Tuesday was move-in day for the University of Illinois Springfield but it wasn't the move-in day they were expecting.

Torrential rain and weather conditions made this a difficult time, but students say that it was the hard work of the volunteer that got them through.

"They came out, helped me get all my stuff out of the car, got it in a cart, pushed it out for me in the rain while getting drenched," UIS student Jalen Walsh said.

Around 125 volunteers helped over 300 incoming freshmen get all moved into their dorms.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on August 20, 2019.

Watch the entire story online.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

University offers training for frontline workers

The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has come under intense scrutiny this year, after several children who had cases with them died.

WCIA went to the Child Protection Training Academy at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) where they train case workers and investigators to better spot and report kids who might be in danger.

The training model called Project Forecast walks the workers through real-life scenarios, showing them how to keep children in Illinois safe.

“Other industries use simulation as a way to get a sense of what to expect when you do this job. But child welfare really didn’t have that kind of realism or those kinds of environments,” said Betsy Goulet, Child Advocacy Studies coordinator at UIS.

The program features encounters with at-risk children different environments to show the frontline workers the proper way to respond.

More than 700 caseworkers have been trained by the academy since 2015.

We watched trainees walk through an experience with a traumatized toddler at a hospital. Organizers said adding scenarios in an actual medical setting makes a big difference.

“Understanding the dialogue you have to have between the medical provider when you are getting information in an ER setting, you can imagine what kind of chaos and constant distractions in an ER, you have to find the right way to communicate,” Goulet said.

The training is made possible through a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) federal grant. All three U of I campuses collaborated to teach workers in their first statewide project.

This story aired on WCIA Channel 3 on August 9, 2019.

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Monday, August 5, 2019

Susan Koch: UIS employees’ lives in the community

The following is an excerpt from a column by University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch. This column appeared in The State Journal-Register on August 3, 2019.

Each of the more than a thousand faculty and staff at the University of Illinois Springfield contributes in myriad ways to providing pathways of opportunity for students that prepare them for success. But as musical artist Dolly Parton once said: “You should never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.“

As Chancellor of UIS, I’ve found it fascinating to discover the many ways valued employees “make a life” outside their work.

This UIS Perspectives column provides a glimpse into some of their stories.

The performing arts is a passion for many UIS employees including Linda Schneider and Steve Marvel. Schneider, whose day job is office administrator in Academic Affairs, has been involved in community theater for many years — combining her acting talent with her love of history. Schneider has portrayed many historical figures including Nellie Grant Jones (daughter of Ulysses S. Grant) for the annual Oak Ridge Cemetery Walk sponsored by the Sangamon County Historical Society. “My most memorable experience thus far,” says Schneider, “was portraying Mary Lincoln for an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s late night talk show.”

In his off hours, Marvel is rocking out as keyboardist and vocalist with “Off the Wall,” one of the most popular pop/rock bands in Central Illinois.

Not many can claim to have a national champion in the family — but Doug Brackney, administrative aide in the UIS Career Development Center, has several! Brackney has been showing champion Persian cats for more than 20 years. His silver Persian named Romeo is not only a national champion but has also been “spokes-cat” for Royal Canine Persian cat food — landing him and his human companions an all-expense paid trip to New York City that included a limousine, a stay in a posh Madison Avenue hotel and a photo shoot with international fashion photographer Platan.

It is a privilege to work with so many talented and dedicated faculty and staff every day at UIS. With their many contributions both on campus and off, they’re not just making a living. They’re making a difference ... and making a life.

Read the entire column online.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Proposed ordinance declares city's 'full support' for downtown university presence

While long considered the most logical site for a downtown university presence, city officials made it clear Tuesday that the city-owned Y-block is just one option on the table.

An ordinance declaring the city’s support for an effort to bring a university presence to downtown Springfield sailed through the city council’s Committee of the Whole Tuesday evening, but not before adopting an amendment that significantly broadened the language to be less site-specific.

“The other way it was written, it was a little Y-block-heavy, so to speak,” said Mayor Jim Langfelder. “And really, the intent is to just support the university developments downtown that could be.”

According to the proposed ordinance, “the city of Springfield is in full support of” a proposed downtown development that would be shared by the University of Illinois Springfield and Southern Illinois University.

The original ordinance was site-specific, leaning heavily on the Y-block site as a future location for the proposed campus. But Langfelder said the change in language was prompted by a meeting with state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, and officials from UIS and SIU, who sought not to limit themselves to the constraints of a one city block.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 31, 2019.

Read the entire story online.