Sara Goodkind receives $350,000 grant

Social Work Professor’s grant aims to improve the health and well-being of Black girls in Allegheny County

University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work Associate Professor Sara Goodkind has received a $350,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Interdisciplinary Research Leaders Program to help create an empowerment program for Black girls in Allegheny County.

Dr. Goodkind’s report last year, Inequities Affecting Black Girls in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, found that in Allegheny County, Black girls are 11 times more likely than White girls to be referred to the juvenile court, while nationally Black girls are referred three times as often. Though current narratives frequently define Black girls’ resistance to oppression and injustice as delinquency, this resistance is often an indicator of strength and resilience. Research has demonstrated that much of the differential treatment of Black girls in the justice system is a result of implicit biases and has documented that their criminalization, victimization, and marginalization has many detrimental impacts on their health.

The project, Redefining Resilience and Reframing Resistance: Evaluation of a Violence Prevention and Health Promotion Empowerment Program for Black Girls, will evaluate an empowerment-based program for Black girls designed to challenge negative perceptions, prevent violence, and improve their health via advocacy, restorative practices, and participatory research.

This research aims to address the following questions: 1) Can an empowerment-focused intervention prevent violence and improve Black girls’ health? 2) Can this empowerment-focused intervention shift adults’ and girls’ narratives about Black girls?

“We hypothesize that girls will be less likely to engage in violence and their health will improve through the development of critical awareness of how societal inequities contribute to the challenges they face and their involvement in social change” says Dr. Goodkind.

The outcomes from this project can be used by service providers, justice system professionals, educators, and policy makers.

In addition to Dr. Goodkind, Associate Professor Britney G. Brinkman from Chatham University, and Kathi Elliott, Executive Director of Gwen’s Girls will help direct the research.

The project will run from September 2017 through August 2020.