CSVAC Sheds Light on Child Trauma in Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 2, 2011) —The University of Kentucky College of Social Work's Center for the Study of Violence Against Children (CSVAC) lived up to its promise to bridge research and the real world this past spring with a forum titled, "Exploring the Context of Child Trauma: Opportunities for Action."

Students, clinicians and faculty presented on a variety of topics relating to CSVAC's work on April 22 at the Hillary J. Boone Center.  The interdisciplinary team of presenters included 18 students from social work, clinical, developmental, school and counseling psychology, and nursing that are completing practicums, research fellowships, internships and rotations at CSVAC. 

"Interdisciplinary research forums like those sponsored by CSVAC truly showcase the great work that UK faculty and students are doing for the community, the Commonwealth, the nation and the world," said UK Provost Kumble Subbaswamy, who also opened the forum.

"Participation in the research forum provided a great opportunity to formally present and discuss my research with members of the community, my professors and my peers," said doctoral student Jessica Eslinger, who presented research on rates of caregiver completion in children's trauma psychotherapy. "Although many of us presenting at the forum focused on different aspects of the work done at the center, it is always interesting to hear about how others are tackling their research questions and the results that they have found." 

In addition to Eslinger's research, forum topics included child trauma symptoms; the assessment of the trauma-exposed child and of caregivers for child maltreatment risk; the relationship of parental substance use to child trauma; secondary traumatic stress and healthcare professionals working with traumatized children; and predictors of fatal child maltreatment.

"Discussion and translational application is critical to any research project," said CSVAC director and Buckhorn Professor of Child Welfare and Children’s Mental Health Ginny Sprang. "Through forums like these, we continue to inform best practices in understanding, assessing, preventing and intervening with children who have experienced all types of adversities in the Commonwealth and beyond."

Eslinger's study yielded some interesting results and forum discussion. According to her research, children with exposure to domestic violence were at an elevated risk of early dropout from psychotherapy treatment, while neglected children more frequently completed treatment.  Both younger and biological or adoptive caregivers were more likely to drop out early from treatment, she said, while children in foster care were more likely to complete treatment.

"This suggests that external pressures to comply with case planning recommendations may be a factor impacting treatment completion," she explained.

"Helping professionals are constantly challenged with trying to figure out how best to help children and their families who have experienced trauma while balancing limited financial resources," Eslinger said. "Continued research into clinical practices that lead to more positive outcomes for children and their families is universally relevant.  Kentucky, in particular, faces many challenges regarding the provision of effective and efficient mental health services to both rural and urban parts of the state."

Eslinger recommends student-focused research forums like these to her peers in all disciplines.

"This is the best place to practice presenting one's work in a context similar to that found at professional conferences," she said. "There were also several presenters whose work offered possible insights into my own research as well."

CSVAC is a translational research center that uses clinical practice, research and training on child and family trauma in an effort to address the detrimental effect of violence against children in the Commonwealth, as well as the nation.