In full transparency, the following is a press release submitted to SOURCE media.
FRAMINGHAM – Founding Director of children’s bereavement service provider Jeff’s Place Dr. Jennifer Kaplan has developed the first and only comprehensive, strength-based standardized tool designed to measure outcomes associated with grief support services.
Known as the Inventory of Youth Adaptation to Loss (IYAL), the tool measures changes over time – related to a youth’s communication, sense of social support, sense of connection, and social and emotional experiences of loss and resilience.
The IYAL was Dr. Kaplan’s doctoral thesis and was created with the most rigorous research standards through the participation of more than 20 children’s bereavement programs. To evaluate the reliability of the IYAL, the sample framework was national in scope, encompassed a range of diverse types of youth bereavement programs, and purposely sought diversity in the sample. Exploratory factor analysis identified five factors with distinct sub-scales indicating that the IYAL is a valid and reliable assessment instrument of youth ages 9-17 coping with grief and their social support relationships.
The tool is unique to Jeff’s Place, an independent 501(c)(3) organization located in Framingham, dedicated to assisting children, teens, young adults, families, and individuals coping with death.
Jeff’s Place was founded by Dr. Kaplan after her brother died during childhood, propelling her into the field of Social Work and Bereavement Services.
Since its inception in 2010, Jeff’s Place has continued to grow and increase its offerings of free support groups, individual counseling, educational training, consultations, and crisis intervention.
“Childhood bereavement is an unrecognized national healthcare issue,” noted Dr. Kaplan. “This collaborative study has been a decade-long labor of love for me and serves as a springboard to improve the lives of children and youth experiencing grief in every domain through evidence-informed services to impact public policies supporting these preventative services and further research.” She continued, “Once we have the baseline, additional measures can be developed and tested with children, youth and families who have experienced different kinds of profound loss.”
The IYAL will provide an evidence-informed tool to grief providers so they can demonstrate how their services change lives. While there are standardized and empirically based measures of social and psychological wellbeing, none measure how childhood loss, such as bereavement, impacts how a child feels, communicates, is supported by, or connects with others. The IYAL filled this gap, making it a keystone in changing the lives of children and preventing long-term mental health effects.
Recognizing the potential for this new tool to transform the lives of bereaved children, Jeff’s Place partnered with Alex Cares, a nonprofit incubator and accelerator for children’s grief programs, to make the IYAL available at no charge to 40 providers of children’s bereavement services around the world. Participating organizations are part of a groundbreaking global research study on youth bereavement. The knowledge that will come from a large dataset of diverse youth from different programs across the world will inform program development and implementation, policy development, and standards of prevention and care for youth experiencing traumatic loss.
This initiative will not only solidify the strength and usefulness of the IYAL, but most importantly, it will demonstrate how various grief support services help different children worldwide, how programs can grow and change to better serve children and give the world a glimpse into the experiences of children moving through profound loss. Program participants receive access to the IYAL, an aggregate report of statistical change from pre- to post- assessment of their agency and the total dataset to share with stakeholders, results to guide the agency in determining best practices and gaps related to program services, and the ability to be part of a cutting-edge initiative designed to impact public policy to make prevention programs accessible to all grieving youth.
Year 1 findings will be available in fall 2023. Jeff’s Place and Alex Cares welcome additional partners to support this critical research.