The Center for Stress, Trauma and Resilience currently has two research projects focused on identifying and mitigating trauma experienced by children in the child welfare system:

Center for Coordinated Trauma Services in Child Welfare and Mental Health

The Center for Coordinated Trauma Services in Child Welfare and Mental Health (CCTS) is funded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and is part of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). The CCTS’s goals are to raise public awareness of childhood trauma within the child welfare system; foster a community dedicated to improving intervention and services for child welfare-involved children; and disseminate services, interventions and knowledge to child welfare and mental health stakeholders and systems that mitigate the impact of trauma among children and families.

The CCTS is actively involved in the following efforts:

  • Trauma Systems Therapy Learning Community, which is currently comprised of three NCTSN sites – from Rhode Island, Philadelphia and Kentucky – that are implementing Trauma Systems Therapy. Engagement with the leaders is focused on improving TST implementation, sharing experiences, trouble-shooting barriers and obstacles, and creating an innovative community to strengthen TST in the sites and beyond.

  • NYU-KVC Midwest Trauma Training Center, which is a regional training center in partnership with KVC Health Systems, Inc., that provides training on the fundamentals of childhood trauma and secondary traumatic stress from a child welfare perspective, including basic concepts related to assessment and treatment from the Trauma Systems Therapy perspective.
  • Child Welfare Practice Laboratories, an initiative within which innovative practices, processes, and other improvement vehicles related to the child welfare system are implemented and evaluated. The NCTSN Resource Parent Curriculum: Caring for Traumatized Children is the first NCTSN product to be evaluated for effectiveness.
  • Trauma Systems Therapy Innovation Community, a network comprised of 21 organizations including child welfare, mental health, and other social service agencies. These agencies are actively involved in implementing and adapting TST to new service settings, and extending the reach of TST within child welfare.

Atlas Project

The Atlas Project, which is funded through the Administration for Children, Youth and Families, aims to make changes to New York State’s child welfare system that improve the social and emotional well-being of children by applying a trauma lens across systems. The Atlas Project is bringing foster care and mental health agencies together to share information and better coordinate services. Whenever possible and applicable, foster care and mental health staff are trained together to improve communication and ensure consistency in service planning.

Our work is starting with agencies in the Bronx and Ulster County, where we will have the opportunity to learn from our experiences before expanding to other areas of the city and state. The Atlas Project’s key activities include the following:

  • Implementing consistent and universal mental health screening and assessment. The Web-Based Screening and Assessment for Trauma and Resilience (WEBSTR) is an online screening and assessment system that will be available to foster care and mental health agencies – it will allow staff to track changes in an individual’s progress over time and agencies to see aggregate-level data, and facilitate information-sharing between foster care and mental health staff, which will improve communication and inform case planning on both ends. We are using the Pediatric Symptom Checklist (PSC) to capture general mental health symptoms and the Child Stress Disorders Checklist (CSDC) to capture trauma-related exposure and symptoms.
  • Providing integrated, trauma-focused mental health treatment. Trauma Systems Therapy (TST) is a comprehensive method for assessing and treating children with traumatic stress. TST addresses both a child’s ability to regulate his or her emotional states when triggered by reminders or stressors, and the social environment’s ability to protect the child from these reminders/stressors and/or help the child to regulate his or her emotions in the face of them. It is also critical that the trauma-related needs of other stakeholders – including caretakers and staff – are addressed as part of service provision. Trauma Systems Therapy is a phase-based model that is delivered through multi-disciplinary teams, which helps ensure that services are coordinated and information is shared among providers.
  • Monitoring the use of psychotropic medication. Children in foster care are more likely to be prescribed psychotropic medication than other children receiving Medicaid-funded services, which is an area of broad-based concern. As part of our work we will develop mechanisms for better tracking the use of psychotropic medication and gather information about whether trauma-focused interventions can decrease the use of such medications.
  • Ensuring youth and family involvement in service development and delivery. Practice or service changes will only be effective if they meet the needs of children and families. We are working with our partners to ensure that youth and family members are included in as many of our project activities as possible, during the planning process, in training and when services are being implemented and evaluated.
  • Evaluating outcomes for individual children and the effectiveness of our system change process. Our evaluation work includes both an implementation study, which will allow us to examine the process of implementing the Atlas Project’s various components and learn about which strategies were most effective, and an outcome study, which will allow us to look at improvements in children’s mental health and child welfare outcomes. We will also be looking at cost data, and conducting smaller studies on certain program elements.