CPS program aims to help the youngest victims of Chicago's violence

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FOX 32 NEWS - Chronic violence plagues our city. More than 4,000 people were shot last year, and 762 of them were killed.

The bloodshed is creating a divide in Chicago. So, FOX 32 is looking to bridge that gap with a new series called, "One Chicago".

It’s a project that looks for solutions, and focuses on people working for answers on the front lines.

A video put together by students in an after school program on Chicago’s Far South Side is called ‘Impact Family Center.’ They are singing about the violence in their neighborhoods.

Another project from that same program is using art to discuss the impact of shootings in their area.

Experts say Chicago’s school children are being exposed to violence in the streets more than ever, and it's having a negative impact on their mental health.

"These are young people who are developing and don't have the same resources or coping strategies and they are trying to make sense out of things that are even hard for adults to understand,” said psychologist Colleen Cicchetti.

Cicchetti heads the Lurie Children's Center for Childhood Resilience Program, or CCR. It has a special outreach program in Chicago’s public schools that focuses on, among other things, trauma training.

The goal is to identify trauma symptoms, recognize the student's mental health needs and find a way to support them.

Through CCR, school, staff, social workers and administrators are trained on how to help students cope with violence and trauma. She says the key is reaching them at a young age because studies have shown that children who are victimized are more likely to do something violent themselves.

"If we can get services to kids when they are growing and developing, we can change these outcomes for them but if we ignore and don't invest in getting them the help they need when they are little, there is going to be this continuing cycle of violence and negative outcome,” Cicchetti said.

Cicchetti says the hope is this program can not only help break the cycle of violence, but enable these children to grow up to become healthy adults.