Department of Psychiatry Will Lead Program to Aid Children

University partners with Monroe County and Family Court

October 11, 2007

Young children placed in the welfare system because their parents are burdened with drug or alcohol dependency rarely receive the family mental health care they need to thrive.

The Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded $1.5 million to a unique regional partnership led by the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry’s Department of Psychiatry for the development and testing of treatment programs that support children and their families.

“We are taking years of research and combining all we know to create evidence-based therapies,” said Wendy J. Nilsen, Ph.D., assistant professor in psychiatry and principal investigator of the project. “This will be state-of-the-art science used to change people’s lives.”

The grant supports a project called Fostering Recovery that is a partnership between the Department of Psychiatry, the University’s Mt. Hope Family Center, the Monroe County Department of Human Services and the Monroe County Family Court. With contributions from the partners, the three-year funding for the project totals $1.8 million.

“The program supports the recovery of the parents and supports the relationship between parent and child to improve child and family outcomes,” said Nilsen, who also is director of the Children’s Center in Monroe County Family Court.

About 120 families are expected to take part in the project, receiving extensive treatment and interventions.

The goals of Fostering Recovery include: enhance the parent-child relationship and support emotional security in young children living at home or in foster care; increase the social, emotional and cognitive development of young children in the child welfare system; reduce out-of-home placements in children who remain at home; decrease the time until permanent placement for children in foster care; and promote parental participation and success in conventional chemical dependency treatment.

Staff will make home visits, provide psychotherapy to children and work with biological and foster parents to support relationships with children. In concert with program staff at social service agencies, they also will provide rapid referrals for treatment for substance abuse.

“If a child is in foster care and can go home, we all want to help the child get home fast and stay at home. If the parent is unable to deal with a child, we want to find a permanent home for the child quickly,” Nilsen said. “The goal is to make the lives of children better.”

As part of the project, Nilsen and others will study which programs produce the best results.

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