Pitt Innovation Challenge 2021
Parenting While Black: Healing and Growing Together
- African American communities are disproportionately impacted by structural and interpersonal racism, leading to a disproportionate burden of mental health disorders despite less access to mental health services.
- Parenting While Black (PWB) is a group intervention for African American parents that provides tools for supporting their children’s healthy development
- Pilot of PWB showed positive increases in parents’ use of racial affirmations, coping strategies for discrimination, and academic socialization.
The stress and trauma associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is deeply felt by African American families. It is clear these events, combined with structural and interpersonal oppression experienced over generations, have contributed to intergenerational trauma and poor mental and physical health.
In Pittsburgh, poverty rates among Black children are higher than in 95% of American cities. Living in poverty is associated with low quality health care, high rates of disease, and increased stress.
This leaves parents wondering how to manage their own well-being while shielding their children from the negative health impacts of these events. Here in Pittsburgh, by the 10th grade more than 50% of Black youth report having experienced racial discrimination. For adults, these experiences of racism are associated with anxiety disorders, stress, and sleep disturbances; for youth, it results in hyper-vigilance, depressive symptoms, diminished self-esteem, and lower academic performance.
Despite substantial threats to Black wellness, there are very few comprehensive and scientifically tested mental health resources to help parents cope with and manage raising Black children in a racialized society.
Parenting While Black (PWB) is a group intervention that provides parents with tools to both support their children’s healthy development and their own wellness.
The current program includes six sessions that use a combination of presentations, activities, and group discussions to promote successful parenting in the face of oppressive factors in the African American context.
The PWB pilot program, funded by the RK Mellon Foundation, used three goals:
- Proactively encourage positive racial identity in Black teenagers;
- Enhance parents’ ability to cope with structural and interpersonal discrimination in a supportive group dynamic;
- One-on-one coaching of both parents and teens in ways to respond to oppressive school situations, a central goal of Black parenting.
These proven techniques helped strengthen parents’ abilities to support adolescent mental health and thriving, while also reducing the parents’ depression and stress.
Path to Impact Plan
Parenting self-help is $16 billion market. Demand for this type of programming is high among the 14 million Black families nationally, as well as among the thousands of Black family-serving organizations and networks.
Demand for the first PWB session was high – nearly 100 parents registered in just three weeks. Unfortunately, programming capacity limited us to only 20 families (all reporting successes).
PInCh funding would allow us to improve the curriculum, expand PWB to three Pittsburgh schools, and establish deeper community connections that can potentially bring PWB to more Black students and families across Western Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, our team will carry out commercialization startup activities (customer discovery, market assessment, and management plan development). This will lead to the development of marketable PWB commercial products (program manuals, online modules, facilitator training seminars) distributed to local and national partner organizations serving African American constituents.
This commercialization approach is modeled after similar curricular, training, and program providers, including one enterprise that partners with schools, community agencies, and individuals to generate more than $7 million in annual revenue through sales of curricular products and training opportunities.
- James Huguley, Ed.D (Pitt School of Social Work) is Associate Dean and Associate Professor at the Center on Race and Social Problems, and a scientific lead on The Pittsburgh Study (TPS) – a large-scale, community-engaged health and racial justice initiative with 450+ community and organizational collaborators. His expertise is in parenting in African American communities, and will oversee all aspects of the project.
- Kyndra Cleveland, Ph.D (Assistant Director, Pitt Center on Race and Social Problems) is a developmental psychologist with expertise in mixed methods research and experiences of families of color, and will oversee data analysis.
- Ming-Te Wang, Ed.D (Pitt School of Education, Learning Research and Development Center) is an expert in large-scale socioemotional interventions, and he will oversee the multi-site implementation.
- Elizabeth Miller, MD, Ph.D (UPMC Children’s Hospital) is Division Director of Adolescent & Young Adult Medicine and Co-Director of The Pittsburgh Study. She will support measure refinement and data analysis.
- Paula Powe, MD (Pitt School of Medicine, Psychiatry) is an expert in Black parenting and mental health, and will support the development of the health and wellness program content.
- Cecily Davis, MSW (Pitt School of Social Work) is a doctoral student and will lead the program implementation team.
- Rachelle Haynik, MPA (Pitt Center on Race and Social Problems) will oversee data collection and analytic procedures for the study.