Chicago Youth Programs, Inc: 2004 – 2005

Through Washington Square Health Foundation’s Grant support, Chicago Youth Programs, Inc. was able to establish in October 2004 the Washington Park Children’s Free Clinic serving Chicago’s south side.

Chicago Youth Programs, Inc. (CYP) strives to improve the long-term health and life opportunities of at-risk youth using a comprehensive approach aimed at developing their capabilities.  Focusing its work in three highly disadvantaged communities – Cabrini Green, Uptown and Washington Park – CYP is an innovative provider of comprehensive programming for youth, designed to shepherd them from birth through college, including primary and preventive healthcare, preschool activities, tutoring, mentoring, career guidance, college prep and placement, scholarships, recreation and arts/cultural activities.  All programs work toward the goal of empowering these youth to escape poverty and all its associated health and social risks by adopting healthy lifestyles and actively pursuing college and a positive career.

CYP’s award-winning Comprehensive Volunteer Health Clinic – run out of donated space in Children’s Memorial Hospital – has provided accessible, high-quality primary care to at-risk youth, regardless of their ability to pay, for more than 10 years.  A Washington Square Health Foundation grant enabled CYP to recently open its second free clinic – the Washington Park Children’s Free Clinic – to serve the needs of its south-side constituents, using its highly effective north-side clinic as a model.  In addition, Washington Square’s support helped to establish several new preventive health initiatives offered by our acclaimed Children-Teaching-Children Peer Mentoring program (CTC).  Together, these programs work to address the lack of access to quality healthcare for economically disadvantaged youth/families and the need for preventive health instruction that can motivate change in at-risk health behaviors of youth.

CYP’s Washington Park Children’s Free Clinic is completely staffed by volunteer Pediatricians, Pediatric residents and medical students.  Nearly 100% of clinic patients are living in poverty with no insurance or Medicaid, and over 90% live in single-parent families. CYP provides an exemplary level of care and concern, otherwise unavailable to this economically disadvantaged client base. Access obstacles are addressed by providing free door-step-to-door-step van transportation.  A typical visit includes a physical exam and immunizations, as well as vision and hearing screening, anticipatory guidance on child development, preventive health instruction on smoking and substance abuse, violent and non-violent injury prevention, and safe-home instruction.

CYP’s clinic employs a unique approach to delivering healthcare that goes well beyond an annual physical and acute care visits.  Clinic youth are referred to CYP’s comprehensive educational and recreational programs as well. CYP volunteer healthcare providers also participate outside clinic activities as tutors/mentors, therefore seeing their patients outside the clinic, building invaluable trust and developing their understanding of the complex matrix of problems posed by poverty, thereby aiding their medical decision making.

Through Washington Square Health Foundation’s grant support, CYP has dramatically enhanced its unique preventive health initiatives as well.  In its Children-Teaching-Children peer mentoring programs, teens design and then teach lessons to younger youth promoting healthy lifestyle choices on a wide variety of topics critical to their community such as gangs, violence, drug abuse, STDs, AIDS, teen parenthood, and the importance of education.  Effectively overcoming the obstacles that traditional public health approaches aimed at altering at-risk behaviors face, CTC’s teen role models are a powerful force in delivering these positive messages in a way that is sensitive to the language, culture and challenges of the impoverished, high-risk community they live in.  With this grant, CTC teen leaders were able to learn and use diverse media in the production of their lessons, including computers and music/video production and editing equipment, making them more appealing, fun, and professional.   Utilizing these media has allowed CYP to build a library of the teen-produced videos/CDs for future use and wider dissemination through its clinics, as well as public events and programs.

With support of the Washington Square Health Foundation, CYP has dramatically increased its ability to provide the high-quality healthcare all children/families deserve, improving their chances for educational achievement and the eventual rise from poverty and all of its associated health and social risks, to enjoy a positive career and financial independence.