Medical Director: Marlene Melzer-Lange, MD
Assistant Medical Director: Michael Levas, MD, MS
"UJIMA" means working together to make things right. It is one of the themes of Kwanza, an African-American celebration.
Project UJIMA is a collaborative, multidisciplinary program geared to stop violent behavior patterns and reduce the number of children hurt by violence. Team members support victims of violence throughout their recovery at Children's Wisconsin, at their homes, and in their communities.
Project UJIMA's Inspiration
In 1988, when he was nine years old, a Milwaukee boy was treated in the Children's Emergency Department and Trauma Center (EDTC) for and "accidental" injury. Two years later, he was treated for multiple contusions and abrasions resulting from an assault. In 1992, at 13 years of age, he was treated for multiple stab wounds. Then, in early 1994, this 15 year old boy was treated for a bullet wound in his leg. By the end of that year, he was dead - shot in the chest and killed at the age of 16. While his physical wounds were expertly cared for each time, not once was the disease of violence treated - even as it occurred over and over. Although he and his family will never know it, this young man's story is the inspiration for Project UJIMA.
Project UJIMA – The Program
Crisis Response and Immediate Support - Project UJIMA support begins when Children's Wisconsin EDTC staff treat a child injured by violence and refer him or her to the Project. The program serves youth from birth to 18 years. A crime victim advocate and a social worker from Children's offer support and care for these children and their families throughout their medical treatment. The team works with the family to identify their needs and evaluate for follow-up and on-going care.
Project UJIMA has been supported through grant mechanisms from the following sources:
- National Alliance for Grieving Children
- Victims of Crime Assistance (VOCA) committee of the US Department of Justice
- Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) of the US Department of Justice
- Milwaukee Public Schools
In accordance with recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force, Project UJIMA has established a unique model of care containing the core elements essential to reducing the consequences of youth violence. Project UJIMA has also been cited as a “Program Strength” by the Level 1 Trauma Center reviewers from the American College of Surgeons during their certification of the trauma center at Children’s Wisconsin.
Follow-up services are provided by a community liaison, a dedicated nurse, and mental health services are offered when necessary. In the family's home, the team meets to evaluate the needs of family members and to develop a plan for ongoing services. After an initial home visit, a variety of services may be provided including: health care, counseling, connections to community programs, and legal and professional support. Project UJIMA further offers programming after school and at summer camp where mental health support and team-building activities are held.
- Injury monitoring - the public health nurse checks the child's injuries and coordinates future health care by helping the family make and follow through with their medical appointments.
- Referrals to clinics or other health care resources - families without a doctor or insurance are connected with health care.
- Post traumatic stress screening and education - crime victim advocates help children and families recognize the emotional effects of a violent injury and learn how to cope.
- Home-based individual and family counseling - therapists help children and families develop skills to deal with post traumatic stress and emotions in a positive way.
- Grief Support Groups are held monthly to help families cope with their child's violent injury and the aftermath. Mental health support is present at these meetings to facilitate discussion and provide insight.
Connections to Community Programs
- School and educational support - crime victim advocates work with children, their families, and teachers to improve attendance at school and encourage academic success.
- Community-based youth and family program connections - children are linked to agencies such as the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA.
- Youth development activities - staff members help children develop through recreational activities, exposure to the arts and literature, group outings, and other activities that broaden their worldview.
Legal and Professional Support
- Legal referrals - crime victim advocates refer children and their families to programs that assist them with legal issues. Families receive help in completing Victims Compensation Fund applications. They also can be referred to programs that provide housing, food, and energy.
- Job readiness and referrals - crime victim advocates help youths prepare resumes, develop interviewing skills, and identify job opportunities.
Project UJIMA is one of the premier violence prevention programs of its kind in the country. Project UJIMA is a co-founding member of the National Network of Hospital based Violence Intervention Programs (NNHVIP). Project UJIMA leaders are available to talk with others interested in starting similar programs in their communities. If you are interested in obtaining more information about Project UJIMA or would like to become involved with Project UJIMA, please contact:
Marlene D. Melzer-Lange, MD
Project UJIMA - Medical Director and Professor of Pediatrics
Michael Levas, MD, MS
Project UJIMA, Assistant Medical Director and Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Pediatric Emergency Medicine - MS 677
9000 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53226