Caribbean countries turn to Dr. Carolyn Gentle-Genitty to help develop strategies to deal with youth and gang-related violence

05-12-2014
Dr. Carolyn Gentle-Genitty of the Indiana University School of Social Work will travel to five Caribbean countries in May to help develop new strategies to deal with youth and gang-related violence that have terrorized some of communities for years.

Dr. Carolyn Gentle GenittyDr. Gentle-Genitty, the Interim Director of the Bachelor of Social Work Program, was selected by CARICOM, considered the United Nations for the Caribbean, to undertake an assessment of threats, risk, resilience and protective factors for school and community-based violence in Jamaica, Antiqua, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, and Trinidad & Tobago. Gentle-Genitty conducts research on social bonding and has earned a national reputation through her Perception of School Social Bonding (PSSB) instrument.

Youth and gang violence is not a new problem to these Caribbean countries, but a decision to re-think ways to deal with it, is. “In the Caribbean, there is a large youth population,” Dr. Gentle Genitty explained. The youth population often makes up 50 percent or more of the population, she noted. There is a strong connection between crime and gang violence and youth development. Concerns about violence led to governmental funds being diverted from education and youth development to security and health related efforts, such as hiring more police and building more jails and prisons.

“In the past, people would get on the radio and complain and say we need to do something (about violence).” There would be a quick reaction and authorities would put more police in schools and cut programs to evening and after-school programs because everyone was worried about safety, Dr. Gentle-Genitty said. That was done despite the fact that research shows having protective factors like after school programs, having outreach and engagement opportunities for young people actually help deter kids from becoming involved in gang violence.

As the violence hasn’t abated, the Caribbean countries are looking to develop new strategies to deal with the issue. That’s where Dr. Gentle-Genitty comes in. this work merges her passion of working with and for students alongside her research with at-risk youth and social bonding.

On May 12 she will fly to the Caribbean and begin the first phase of her work -- data collection in communities identified as high risk areas for violence. Her goal is to identify the common risk factors among at-risk communities by conducting surveys and interviews of students at a school and with community members and focus groups to see what they think the problem is, why young people are joining gangs and how it might be dealt with during a two day stay in each of the five countries.

Dr. Gentle-Genitty will leave the Caribbean by the end of May and begin compiling the information. The next step is to develop new approaches to counter youth violence and hold teleconferences with each country to discuss which of Dr. Gentle-Genitty’s recommendations they want to move forward with.

Then in September, she will return to the Caribbean and hold national meetings in each country about the findings of the surveys and the recommendations to implement new programs to reduce violence. She will be working closely with governmental departments of Education, Youth, and Social Development. Before she leaves, Dr. Gentle-Genitty expects to oversee the start of training of the persons who will take the recommendations and turn them into reality.


Press Release Contact:
Rob Schneider
IUPUI
robschn@iupui.edu
(317) 278-0303