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Children’s Need Assessment Research at Casa de Paz

In April, three professors from Xavier University presented the results of their research to the Board of Directors of Casa de Paz. Dr. Leah Dunn, Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy, Dr. Jennifer Gibson, Associate Professor of Psychology, and Dr. Diane Ceo-DiFrancesco, Professor of Spanish and Education were assisted by Xavier student researcher Mercy Torres.

In partnership with the Executive Director of Casa de Paz, this project aimed to conduct an assessment focused on understanding the needs and desires of the children and adolescents residing in the home. Emphasis was placed on understanding how to create culturally responsive supports and services.  Through the project, the researchers sought to determine what an average day looks like for the children at Casa de Paz: how they spend their time, activities that they like and dislike, and their physical, social-emotional, cognitive, and occupational needs.

Xavier University’s Institutional Review Board granted approval and oversight of the project. The researchers used photo interviewing, with each child taking photos of their day and then talking about 5 photos during a Zoom interview. Moms of the children were also interviewed. In total, 10 interviews were conducted with 7 children and 3 mothers, from 3 families.  The children ranged in ages from preschool to pre-teens.


Daily favorite activities of the children include technology-based entertainment, movement activities, imaginative play and arts and crafts. The children play with dolls, cars (matchbox and remote control), and building toys (particularly Legos). Their play is often with other children their age in the house. They particularly like coloring and crafts with volunteers. Children are sometimes involved in household chores, like folding laundry, mopping, and sweeping the floor. During the pandemic, children attended virtual school and completed homework. Weekend activities often include time with moms, attending church services, or going to a park.

Needs that were specifically identified by the children and the moms include:

  • More volunteers to interact with the children in enrichment activities on a regular basis;
  • Outside play equipment: soccer balls & net, a swing set for use during breaks in school and after school;
  • Activities specifically for pre-teens;
  • Imaginative play toys such as puppets and a play house;
  • Outings, particularly picnics at local parks.

The research team used this information, and their expertise in education, occupational therapy, and psychology to create a set of recommendations for promoting healthy development in the following domains:  Physical Development, Social-Emotional Development, Cognitive Development, and Occupational Engagement.

A number of people are involved in creating an environment wherein the children can live and learn safely: Casa de Paz’ Executive Director, interns and volunteers who have organized activities for the children. Casa de Paz follows a safety and training protocol for volunteers. Please contact Julia Figueroa-Gardner, the Executive Director, for more information.

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