$1.6 million grant targets children affected by trauma

Center for the Treatment and Study of Adverse Childhood Events: (left to right) Patricia Seifert, PhD; Robin Tener, PhD; Sumru Bilge-Johnson, MD; Sarah Ostrowski, PhD; Melissa Peace, MSSA, LISW-S; and Norman Christopher, MD

Center for the Treatment and Study of Adverse Childhood Events: (left to right) Patricia Seifert, PhD; Robin Tener, PhD; Sumru Bilge-Johnson, MD; Sarah Ostrowski, PhD; Melissa Peace, MSSA, LISW-S; and Norman Christopher, MD

Akron Children’s Hospital been awarded a $1.6 million federal grant to provide services and support to children and families who have experienced psychological trauma. 

Akron Children’s joins a national network of over 130 child trauma centers that address a wide range of traumatic experiences, including physical and sexual abuse; domestic, school, and community violence; natural disasters and terrorism; and life-threatening injury and illness.

With the 4-year grant, Akron Children’s becomes a member of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), whose mission is to improve the quality, effectiveness, and availability of services for children and families who experience traumatic events.

Community surveys suggest that by their 16th birthday, 67 percent of American children are exposed to at least one significant traumatic event.

With this new funding, Akron Children’s will develop the Center for the Treatment and Study of Adverse Childhood Events, with the goal of providing leadership, training and consultative services in the area of childhood traumatic stress for northeast Ohio.

The center will create a trauma-focused network of care, which will improve access to treatment, help identify children who have been exposed to adverse events; and create a trauma-informed system of care throughout the continuum of care offered by Akron Children’s Hospital.

“Tragic shootings in Copley, Chardon and now Connecticut reinforce the importance of trauma training for teachers, doctors, nurses, and others who work with children,” said Norm Christopher, MD, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Akron Children’s and the author of numerous studies on childhood trauma. “And it’s not just these headline-generating tragedies that can have lasting effect on families and communities. This grant will also enable us to deliver age-appropriate and research-based responses to the death of a high school student, the chronic illness of a sibling, or domestic violence as they can be equally devastating for loved ones.”

Melissa Peace, a social worker who spent ten years leading the Summit County Children Who Witness Violence Program, will serve as project director.

According to Peace, her team will begin by creating a community trauma advisory council and rolling out trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy (TF-CBT) for Akron Children’s clinical staff and community mental health providers and then to area school personnel.

TF-CBT is an evidence-based approach to helping children create and share “trauma narratives” to cope with their emotions stemming from a traumatic event.

The grant also has a research component, led by pediatric psychologist Sarah Ostrowski, PhD.

“As a member of the network, we will have a direct connection to the experts and most current research in childhood traumatic stress,” said Ostrowski, who will serve as principal investigator. “And through our own research, we will be contributing to that body of knowledge as well.”   

The grants are awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The U.S. Congress authorized the NCTSN in 2000, in response to the growing needs of children exposed to trauma in the United States. 

The NCTSN is a collaboration of academic, clinical, and diverse community service centers, and is coordinated by the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress (NCCTS), co-located at UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Duke University Medical Center. The NCTSN combines expertise in child traumatic stress, knowledge of child development, and attention to cultural and family perspectives as it supports the development and dissemination of evidence-based and trauma-informed treatments and services. 

Supporting children, families touched by trauma
Published: April 12, 2013
Publication: Children's Progress
Issue: Spring

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