Jill Sharkey leads evaluation team for a new multi-agency effort to address youth violence in Santa Maria

Tuesday, August 2, 2022
Jill Sharkey

Dr. Jill Sharkey of UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School will lead a research team performing an external evaluation of Familias Seguras/Secure Families – a California Violence Intervention and Prevention (Cal-VIP) Program. This new comprehensive, trauma informed, family-centered violence prevention collaboration will be implemented in the City of Santa Maria to address the root causes of rising rates of violence.

Familias Seguras/Secure Families will provide early intervention by identifying 60 at-risk youths in 5th grade and supporting them – and their households – over a three-year period with comprehensive services and referrals. Familias Seguras/Secure Families was awarded a $2.5 million grant from the Board of State and Community Corrections. Familias Seguras/Secure Families emphasizes collaboration between community organizations, agencies, and school districts, including CommUnify, Family Service Agency/Santa Maria Valley Youth & Family Center, Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley, Santa Maria-Bonita School District, University of California Santa Barbara, County of Santa Barbara Behavioral Wellness, County of Santa Barbara Department of Social Services, Santa Maria Police Department, City of Santa Maria office of the Mayor, and the Santa Barbara County Probation Department. These partner organizations will provide in-kind services to meet the $1-to-$1 matching funds requirement for the Cal-VIP grant.

Sharkey and her Gevirtz School team will conduct an external evaluation of the outcomes of those enrolled in the program over three-years with an additional six-month evaluation period. Sharkey is a natural fit for this role as she has already built a foundation for success through involvement with several projects including the South Coast Youth Safety Partnership, Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council, Bridges to Recovery, Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities, Resilience Interventions for Sexual Exploitation, Youth Empowerment Services! (YES!) and Great Outcomes For Adolescent Recovery (GO FAR).

“UCSB is thrilled to be part of this incredible partnership to implement a program for at-promise youth and their families that builds from decades of prior experience,” Sharkey, Professor of School Psychology and Associate Dean for Research and Outreach at the Gevirtz School, says. “We have learned that collaboration amongst community-based organizations and county agencies is needed to serve our most vulnerable youth and have seen how mental health screening can lead to tailored treatment plans that address the symptoms of trauma and tap into their resilience.  By working with students and their families where they live instead of while they are incarcerated or isolated, Familias Seguras/Secure Families provides the necessary support to the age group that can benefit the most. Doing this will successfully reduce violence in Santa Maria, thereby helping participants to thrive in their own communities.”

[Jill Sharkey is available for interviews; contact George Yatchisin at george@education.ucsb.edu]