|Vol. 22, No. 17||September 15, 2000|
Texas Children's Hospital Supports Development of Nation's First Web-Based Assessment for Traumatized Children
By JENNIFER HART
Texas Children's Hospital
In an unprecedented attempt to track and assist traumatized, abused and neglected children in Texas, the psychiatry service at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston has developed a Web-based assessment process that is the first of its kind in the nation.
The data generated from the assessments of children entering the child protective system will form the largest database of information on maltreated children ever created. The information will help ensure that abused children receive appropriate treatment and allow outcome tracking.
"This first comprehensive database of traumatized children will allow us to understand more about the physical, emotional, cognitive and social impact of maltreatment on the developing child," says Dr. Bruce Perry, chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's and a world-renowned specialist on victims of childhood trauma. "This process and Web-based assessment has attracted the interest of several other states and countries. Implementation of the process will make a tremendous impact nationwide on policy and practice related to abused children."
The ChildTrauma Academy at Texas Children's Hospital has partnered with Baylor College of Medicine, the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services and Digital Consulting, & Software Services, Inc. to create the Web-based assessment process.
The ChildTrauma staff began their daunting task in 1995 by teaming with Harris County Child Protective Services to study 600 children over a two-year period. The program was then expanded to include 800 additional children over three years.
The effort now is being taken to the state level. Within the next five years, the project is expected to register and track 10,000 children statewide.
"Child trauma is a devastating problem," says Dr. Perry. "It can result in profound emotional and physical health problems."
Traumatized children are vastly underserved nationwide. In Harris County alone, 80,000 children have mental health problems, many of which are attributable to trauma. Fewer than one-eighth of these children receive help. Nationwide, 5 million children are trauma victims annually.
"Children, especially abused and neglected children, don't have a voice in society," Dr. Perry says. "No research group has ever followed large groups of traumatized children to document their progress or lack thereof."
According to Dr. Perry, many studies, including several at Texas Children's Hospital, have documented that trauma and persistent fear in childhood can actually change the biology of the brain and cause children to have lifelong mental, psychological and social problems.
"These children are at high-risk for ending up in the juvenile justice system, or simply falling through the cracks in our public systems," says Dr. Perry. "If we're going to stop the cycle of trauma and pain, we must understand what happens to maltreated children."
The ChildTrauma Academy, founded by Dr. Perry, offers assistance to children following traumatic events, including abuse, neglect, domestic violence, car accidents and natural disasters.
For details on the ChildTrauma Academy, call 713-770-3752 or visit http://www.texaschildrenshospital.org/childtrauma.
©2006 Texas Medical Center