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Global buddies, family coaching: ideas to change the world

  • By Mark Wheeler
  • Published Aug 21, 2007 3:00 PM

How do you reach out to a troubled kid? Or a troubled family?

You go to them.

A food market in China. Homes in South Africa. And soon, coming to a shopping mall near you, the UCLA Family Coaching Clinics.

It's all part of an effort by UCLA's Global Center for Children and Families (GCCF), which is committed to helping families and children achieve the highest level of well-being possible. Not just physical heath, but mental health too. And not just local families, but global ones.

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GCFF’s Scientific Wellness Lab

A case in point: The Global Buddies programs, an annual effort mounted to help children (and maybe an adult or two) learn that it's a big world out there. To realize that, as big of a world as it is, people . . . are still just people.

Last year, five American families participated in a week-long service and education program with 10 families in Cape Town, South Africa. They ate together, played together, worked together, and were educated together to the global challenges facing families, inspiring parents and children to see themselves as global citizens and to take action on worldwide issues confronting the environment and humanity. A similar program will again be mounted in spring, 2008.

While the GCFF is looking global, it's thinking local as well. Closer to home, new ways are being developed to reach out to families that need a little family coaching and a little preventive mental health care. UCLA's Family Coaching Clinics, to be conveniently located in malls and other retail spaces, will make mental health care readily available to families before simple problems become more serious.

What kind of problems? Helping families with children from infancy to adolescence address common childhood issues such as miscommunications between parent and child, sibling and sibling; traumatic (for a child) key school transitions, elementary to middle school, middle school to high school; dealing with a bully at school; learning and maintaining healthy daily routines. The coaching clinics will offer short-term, skill-focused training that will help families deal with these typical developmental and environmental child-rearing challenges.

Where do these ideas come from? Science. The GCFF's Scientific Wellness Lab will bring together university researchers from a broad base of disciplines to collect data, synthesize research findings, and generate fresh ideas. The Lab will harness the world-class resources of UCLA to drive these educational offerings and provide a scientific basis for everything that‘s offered in the Family Coaching Clinics.

Recently, the Global Center's Family Coaching model was recognized in an international competition called Changemakers, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, as an idea that demonstrates "innovation, social impact, and sustainability." Find out how you can be part of the competition at the GCCF web site.

Didn't someone once say it takes a village to raise a child? How about it takes a global community and a spot in a local mall.