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Tia Burroughs Clayton, MSS
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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Alyson Ferguson, MPH
Chief Operating Officer

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Vivian Figueredo, MPA
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

Derrick M. Gordon, PhD
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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Georgia Kioukis, PhD
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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Samantha Matlin, PhD
Senior Learning & Community Impact Consultant

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Director of Learning & Community Impact

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Joe Pyle, MA

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Nadia Ward, MEd, PhD
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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Bridget Talone, MFA
Grants Manager for Learning and Community Impact

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Hitomi Yoshida, MSEd
Graduate Fellow

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Ashley Feuer-Edwards, MPA
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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Community-Based Grief Support

Uplift Center for Grieving Children

Community-Based Grief Support Logo

Program Website
Winner Status:
Program Type:
Counseling and Support
Target Population:
Children and Adolescents

Program Description

The Center for Grieving Children’s Community-Based Grief Support offers trauma-informed, evidence-based peer support groups to youth and families who have experienced the death of a loved one. The program uses a satellite-based model that includes: 1) After-school groups in 4 dedicated locations for youth ages 5-25 and their caregivers from September through June; 2) In-school groups for students that take place during the school day; 3) Post-Crisis Interventions when a school or community experiences a death; and 4) Professional Development and Workshops for caregivers and professionals who interact with youth on a daily basis. Program curriculum uses elements of narrative, family, and art therapies to enable safe grief processing, assist in reducing isolation and depression, teach children a grief vocabulary and coping skills, and help identify current secondary supports and continuing bonds to the deceased. Journaling, roleplaying, and storytelling are a few examples of centering activities that empower youth to talk about their grief, form bonds to the deceased loved one, and build connections with their peers. Staff are master’s-level trained clinicians or higher, have trauma-informed and culturally competent focuses, and use evidence-based models of grief and trauma intervention to properly assess and meet the needs of each child.


Unlike other organizations of its kind, The Center has responded to endemic violence and grief in Philadelphia with a satellite model that includes both dedicated locations and partnerships with schools and communities. Taking into account the prevalence of trauma alongside grief in a city like Philadelphia, the program is specially designed to address the impacts of childhood traumatic grief. The program also focuses on addressing the social determinants of health by partnering across sectors with trusted education, health, and community organizations, including: the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the School District of Philadelphia, Mastery Charter Schools, KIPP Charter Schools, as well as the Victim Community Support Initiative of the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS). This provides a continuity of care and acts as a lifeline for underserved youth who do not have access to grief support, which is critical for their lifelong social and behavioral health.


The Community-Based Grief Support program has the potential to provide replicable solutions to improve community and behavioral health outcomes for underserved, grieving youth. The program design and implementation rely on a strong network of partners rather than a single organization, and as such, the design can be applied in other large, urban settings that experience high levels of violence and grief. Program staff have developed a reputation for providing person-centered, clinical expertise to support for grieving youth. Program staff work with school and district partners, hospital leadership and staff, as well as city agencies and coalitions. Along with online, print, and in-person media, these partnerships allow Community-Based staff to disseminate information about the program. Staff also regularly train and present to various local agencies and also lead workshops at national conferences like the National Alliance for Grieving Children’s Annual Symposium.


The primary resource required to sustain the innovative program is funding. The program’s services for children and families are free so that money does not act as a barrier to access. This requires financial investment from both private and public supporters. But sustainability is more than just financial. Human capital and strong partnerships are just as important to continuing the Community-Based Grief Support program in the future. Because of the program’s cross-sectoral approach to grief, trauma, and community violence, resources and support are horizontally rather than vertically aligned to ensure further ensure sustainability of the approach. By partnering with hospital, schools, city agencies, and other organizations, and by offering professional development around grief and support services, the program is equipping community members with the knowledge and skills to best support the behavioral health needs of grieving youth and families.


Community-Based Grief Support can be adapted by other institutions or organizations where grief and violence are of particular concern. The program provides a continuity of care for the populations it serves by using a satellite-based model that allows children and families to seamlessly move between in-school and location-specific sites. The program uses a nationally-recognized model of peer grief support, which focuses on the children leading the process and being the primary supports to one another. Because this piece of the program is itself a replication of an already existing model, it can easily be adapted by other institutions. Another integral part of the program rests in partnerships and collaborations with community organizations and leaders. Other institutions and organizations looking to replicate the entire program model should have a primary focus of building trust and establishing clear lines of communication among partners in order to build a seamless continuity of care.


Community-Based Grief Support and the peer groups The Center offers have been shown to decrease the likelihood of long-term psychological issues, reduce social isolation, and reduce trauma symptoms associated with violent death. Last program year, students who participated in the Community-Based program reported a 56% increase in their ability to cope after group as compared to before the group started. Students also self-reported very positive responses for their group experience and its ability to help them moving forward. Similarly, 65% of counselor respondents rated the in-school grief groups as very high quality, while the remaining 35% rated the groups as high quality. 59% said the groups were extremely helpful for their students, and the other 41% reported they were very helpful. Counselors reported behavioral, academic, emotional, and social improvements among their students. Finally, 94% of counselors who responded would recommend The Center for Grieving Children to their friends or colleagues.