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Supporting a project that represents a partnership between the school and the city as well as marriages between schools within the University, the William Penn Foundation recently awarded Penn's Graduate School of Education an $800,000 grant for a two-year initiative. Designed to produce concrete improvements in the lives of children in the city while also gathering and processing longer-term research data, the project represents a new paradigm in child welfare. "If we're successful, we'll have the only integrated municipal database on children and youth in the country," GSE Professor John Fantuzzo said. Fantuzzo, a primary mover behind the proposal and the project, stressed that this is no ordinary grant. "We're very, very excited, not so much in that it represents the 'Wow, we got another grant so we can do another project so we can get another publication'" mindset, he said. Rather, the project represents "not an isolated study but the capacity for generations of studies." Reconciling the practical, urgent world of city officials in the trenches of child welfare with the broader outlook of a research university, the grant will allow Penn to work "with the city to create an integrated database to foster and support the city's improvement, evaluate services and bring state of the art research findings to inform decision making and practice," Fantuzzo said. Through the creation of the Kids' Integrated Database System, or KIDS, data on the educational needs, health and welfare of more than 250,000 Philadelphia children will be shared for the first time ever, as the once independent databases maintained by the public schools and by the city's human services and public health departments are merged. "The data are integrated to inform projects and policies and major initiatives," Fantuzzo said. "The larger picture in terms of the University is to create a really genuine partnership between faculty and the city's administrators, the University's resources and the incredible wisdom and knowledge of [those] working in the city." Bridging a gap between the researcher and the social worker, the University administrator and the city councilman, has not been easy. "Where there's sometimes the greatest needs, there's also the greatest urgencies and the greatest tensions, so people trying to get that grant in in the 48 days they give you go to places where the capacities are already there." "The places where the capacities aren't there are those that we find most compelling," Fantuzzo concluded. No fewer than four of the University's schools are collaborating on this project. GSE will be joined by the medical center's Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research and the Cartographic Modeling Laboratory, which represents the pooled efforts of both the School of Social Work and the Graduate School of Fine Arts. At the neighborhood level, Penn's School of Engineering and Applied Science will participate in the Learning Links component of the project, which will feature early childhood mentoring conducted by Penn student volunteers and electronic bridges" between the Penn-- Alexander and Lea Elementary schools.

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