The Center employs scientists and clinicians who are actively engaged in a wide range of basic and applied research investigations, program development and evaluation, clinical technology design, implementation, testing, dissemination and public policy consultation. It is philosophically grounded in its commitment to the "clinical scientist" model that is the basis for translational research, and is driven by the commitment that research and clinical programming should result in demonstrably effective outcomes for children. Its location in the flagship university of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and its long term collaborations with the executive and judicial branches of government have resulted in important public policy outcomes that have flowed from the Center’s research, clinical and educational activities.
The Center's programs engage a wide range of initiatives that are guided by a set of conceptual and methodological specifications that reflect the essential requirements for effective science and practice. These guiding principles capture the essence of the Center’s work and are described in detail below.
CTAC Model Specifications
1. Life-Span and Ecological Perspective. The CTAC seeks to advance the science on the effects of violence against children across the life cycle. This approach requires an ecological framework to guide research design and service delivery. This perspective is contrasted with current trends that are more specifically tailored to the examination of individual processes and outcomes and that are often conducted without consideration of germane familial or organizational interactions. The across-the-life-cycle scope of this Center is envisioned as stimulating a richer and more robust affiliation of clinical and epidemiologically based research on violence against children and the wide range of behavioral consequences.
2. Addressing the Silo Effect. Currently, the state of knowledge regarding the biopsychosocial needs of maltreated and traumatized children and their families is fragmented into disparate fields of study. The Center is being developed to dissipate the trend toward narrow specialization in research and practice that has resulted in isolation of one body of research from the other. The CTAC identifies, typologizes, and synthesizes conceptual and empirical information across fields of study (neuro-development, trauma, substance abuse, child welfare, developmental psych and pediatric psychiatry).
3. Broadening the Scope of Inquiry. A lack of theoretical and empirical clarity in service and research leads to a singular focus on symptom reduction and little understanding of the crucial processes that produce change or the resultant functional capacities of targeted children and families. CTAC broadens the scope of inquiry by specifying and testing the mechanisms of action and disorder associated with issues and interventions related to violence against children.
4. Translational Research Perspective. Current research methodologies used in understanding violence against children produce “gaps in knowledge” and “problems in knowledge utilization” that impede the identification and adoption of best practices. Research methodologies used to study the issues and interventions relevant to maltreated and traumatized children and their families need to be designed to control for error, yet address the real world issues that characterize contemporary clinical practice. The CTAC model is bidirectional and translational in nature and uses innovative methodological designs to improve the move from efficacy to effectiveness research and underscores the importance of local and global knowledge.
5. Active Community Engagement. Violence against children is a complex social problem that demands active collaboration between community stakeholders and institutions of higher education. CTAC tests ways of communicating new/existing knowledge to crucial systems of care that address the deleterious effects of violence against children. Active community engagement allows for the collaborative design of practice and research protocols so that empirical findings are relevant to the concerns of practitioners, and community stakeholders are key contributors to the research agenda of the Center. The CTAC uses innovative, empirically supported dissemination technologies to build community capacity to address violence against children, to impact public policy, and to transform local, regional and national systems of care.
Center Initiatives and Priorities
I. Initiative on Assessment, Diagnosis and Epidemiology
Areas of High Priority
1. Promote just, scientifically informed and compassionate decision-making on behalf of children involved in the child welfare, behavioral health, health and judicial systems through the use of and implementation of basic and applied research.
2. Establish the epidemiology of child trauma exposure in Kentucky and in population subgroups.
3. Empirically document the event specific phenomenon associated with diverse forms of violence and trauma exposure and the impact of these events on the behavioral health of children and families.
4. Synthesize knowledge and technology from the fields of neuroscience, developmental psychology, child welfare, substance misuse and trauma to inform protocol development and the design of basic and applied research.
II. Initiative on Trauma Intervention Research and Dissemination
Areas of High Priority
1. Operate a living laboratory that develops and tests evidenced-based approaches to improve health and behavioral health outcomes for children
2. Establish provider practice patterns with regards to treating the behavioral health sequelae associated with violence against children
3. Identifying barriers to the utilization of best practice approaches in the public and private behavioral health community
4. Transform provider practices by increasing the use of evidence based practices in work with children who are exposed to traumatic events
5. Evaluating the effectiveness of various dissemination models aimed at transforming systems of care
III. Initiative on Trauma and Violence Prevention
Areas of High Priority
1. Identify, develop, adapt and study promising practices and evidence-based approaches for preventing violence, child maltreatment and other forms of trauma exposure
2. Develop working coalitions with public and private organizations dedicated to preventing trauma exposure and violence against children in Kentucky and in the nation
3. Collaborate with national and international research and academic Centers working in the area of child trauma prevention and early intervention
4. Provide expert consultation to media and other dissemination outlets to promote scientifically-based information and recommendations for action
IV. Initiatives on System Transformation and Public Policy
Areas of High Priority
1. Identify and analyze problems and gaps in public policy that may contribute to or incentivize violence against children
2. Collaborate with public policy makers, organizations, academic programs and research centers that address violence against children and its sequelae.
3. Ongoing dissemination of policy-relevant research findings through development of white papers, model legislation, and other materials through presentations, website, new releases and other venues.
4. Provide data, reports, consultations and technical assistance to federal, state and regional policy makers on child maltreatment and its consequences to health, behavioral health and social functioning.