Dr.. McMillen is engaged in a number of projects designed to improve mental health services for children and youth in foster care.

Handling Intense Emotions

Dr. McMillen has created a curriculum for foster youth and their caregivers called Handling Intense Emotions. It is a blended intervention that combines in-person facilitation with a digitzed curriculum. It educates youth and caregivers about the realities of intense emotions, why people have them, and how intense emotion episodes start and stop. And, it teaches young people and their caregivers a bunch of things to try to better handle intense emotions. The curriculum is being piloted at Lawrence Hall Youth Services in Chicago. 

Quality Monitoring and Improvement

Dr. McMillen is leading efforts to educate the social service sector on how to how to better monitor for and improve service quality. This work has involved a national study of quality professionals in child and family service agencies, developing a course at SSA on this topic, and spreading this curriculum to agency staff and social work faculty. SSA Professor Tina Rzepnicki and Dr. McMillen, in a project funded by the Center for Health Administration Studies, will be piloting a curriculum with agency and faculty teams. Dr. Nathaniel Israel of Chapin Hall and Dr. McMillen are studying the maturation of performance measurement systems in child and family services agencies. This is a case study project, involving nine agencies in the Midwest and the west coast.

De-escalation Strategies

Dr. McMillen, Ph.D. student Jill Spielfogel and AM student Sav Felix are compiling menus of de-escalation strategies that can be used to help upset people calm down. They surveyed practitioners across several field (human services, criminal justice, retail) and conducted a systematic review of the literature across several fields.

Treatment Foster Care

Dr. McMillen and his colleagues have manualized a number of modules to supplement regular foster care services. These include the Handling Intense Emotions curriculum, as well as modules for a skills coach, foster parents and a psychiatric nurse. Several of these modules were developed with NIH support and piloted in Missouri before Dr. McMillen came to the University of Chicago. With Dr. Sarah Narendorf at the University of Houston and Julie Bertram, a nurse practitioner at St. Louis University, he has helped create an intervention for a psychiatric nurse in foster care teams.