The impressive impact of Unitas on its membership
has been the subject of three research studies
conducted by the Hispanic Research Center of Fordham University
as well as a three-year study on drug abuse prevention
funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
The first of the Fordham studies, (Farber, H. and Rogler, L. Hispanic and Black Children
in a Healing Community,
1982), is an ethnographic analysis and summarized as follows:
Unitas is an outreach program which focuses upon the behavioral problems of children -- most of whom are Puerto Rican or Black -- living in the South Bronx. The goals of Unitas are to correct and prevent emotional disorders common to the lives of ghetto children through its service systems of real and symbolic family interventions and through its training of persons in community child-related agencies. Unitas uses an innovative approach, that of creating substitute type families comprised of symbolic parents, aunts, uncles, and older brothers and sisters, in caretaking relationships to children in need as an alternative to their natural but dysfunctioning family care system. Troubled youngsters living in the same neighborhood of the South Bronx are grouped into such family units in association with normal youths from the same neighborhood, under the guidance of a teenager or adult who, under clinical supervision, acts in the capacity of a surrogate parent. This ethnographic study consists of an in-depth description and analysis of the processes, dynamics, and interrelationships that make up this unique therapeutic method. The findings of this study were published in HRC Monograph No. 6.
The second of the Fordham studies and a publication from the Fordham University Press, (Eismann,E. Unitas: Building Healing Communities for Children, 1985, 1996 second edition), by the founder, Edward P. Eismann, Ph.D., is summarized below. Click here to order this book through Unitas
This study is a companion to the ethnographic study described above. In order to replicate the Unitas program, a vehicle had to be constructed to transmit the program's methods. A logistics manual was therefore developed to present Unitas techniques in a sequential and integrative manner. The manual describes the steps taken historically together with the methods used in the creation of a caretaker system of neighborhood teens available to each other and to neighborhood children in need. It describes the theoretical framework of Unitas in philosophical, sociological, and psychological formulations, as well as the operationalization of these theories in an integrative manner to produce a therapeutic community. The manual also offers a training curriculum that simulates the training given to Unitas caretakers and clinical staff. This study was published as HRC Monograph No. 8 and is available directly through Unitas.
The third of the Fordham studies (Procidano, M. and Glenwick, D., Unitas: Evaluating a Preventive Program for Hispanic and Black Youth,
1985), is a classical psychological pre-post experimental analysis and is summarized below:
This study examined the effectiveness of Unitas, its impact on children, and the factors responsible for that impact. Information was gathered on a broad range of dimensions, including demographics, adjustment and attitudes, adaptive behavior, and program participation. The outcome evaluation indicated that the program has the specific effect of enhancing participants' satisfaction with social support, collecting and keeping a population of clearly designated high risk youngsters in its mental health program and maintaining their functioning with no further deterioration and a tendency at the .006 level to increased pro social behavior, particularly for the 6-10 year old group. Children in symbolic families with particularly empathic "caretakers" showed significant pro social gains in contrast to children in symbolic families with indifferent caretakers. The results of this study were published in HRC Monograph No. 13.
The three Unitas studies described above -- one, an ethnographic outsider's account, the second, an insider's view by Edward P. Eismann, Ph.D., the founder of Unitas, and the third an experimental evaluation -- form a trilogy providing a comprehensive, multifaceted evaluation of the Unitas experience. In addition to the studies cited above, Unitas has been the recipient of two documentary/training tape production awards demonstrating its social support system of neighborhood caretaking. The first, Unitas: Building Healing Communities for Children was produced by the Instructional TV of the Archdiocese of New York; the second, Unitas: Ties That Bind, was produced by the Channel L Working Group in collaboration with the United Way.
Purchase of Eismann, E. UNITAS: Building Healing Communities for Children New York; Fordham University Press 1996