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SYNCHRONY project

A program aimed at helping abused and neglected children and their families is improving short-term outcomes for kids and providing children with stable home environments as their cases move through the courts. The program is for children and families whose cases ended up in court. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that kids whose families received psychiatric help and educational support through the program have better-than-expected outcomes compared to kids comparably matched for level of risk whose cases went through the court system before the program was launched.

WHEN YOUNG CHILDREN SUFFER ABUSE OR NEGLECT, THEY ARE AT RISK FOR BIG PROBLEMS LATER ON IN LIFE, SUCH AS PSYCHIATRIC DISORDERS, SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND BECOMING ABUSERS THEMSELVES AS ADULTS. BUT A PROJECT INVOLVING THE ST. LOUIS COUNTY COURTS AND WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY CHILD PSYCHIATRISTS IS WORKING TO BREAK THAT PATTERN BY OFFERING SERVICES BOTH TO CHILDREN AND TO THEIR PARENTS. JIM DRYDEN HAS MORE…

ONE IN EIGHT CHILDREN IN THE UNITED STATES WILL SUFFER ABUSE OR NEGLECT, AND WHEN THAT HAPPENS, THEY OFTEN END UP IN THE COURT SYSTEM. A CHILD MAY BE REMOVED FROM THE FAMILY HOME AND PLACED IN FOSTER CARE. THE COURT OFTEN WILL LIMIT CONTACT BETWEEN THE CHILD AND THE PARENT WHO MISTREATED HIM OR HER. BUT THAT DOESN’T SOLVE UNDERLYING PROBLEMS THAT LED TO ABUSE IN THE FIRST PLACE. SO A TEAM FROM WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE IS NOW WORKING WITH COURTS IN ST. LOUIS COUNTY TO TRY TO ADDRESS SOME OF THE ROOT CAUSES OF ABUSE AND NEGLECT. THE SYNCHRONY PROJECT, WHICH STANDS FOR STRENGTHENING YOUNG CHILDREN BY OPTIMIZING FAMILY SUPPORT IN INFANCY, TREATS KIDS WHO HAVE BEEN MALTREATED BY FAMILY MEMBERS. IN THE EARLY YEARS OF THE PROJECT, THOSE INVOLVED HAVE FOUND THAT KIDS REFERRED TO SYNCHRONY HAVE DONE BETTER EMOTIONALLY AND DEVELOPMENTALLY THAN ABUSED OR NEGLECTED CHILDREN WHO WENT THROUGH THE COURT SYSTEM IN THE YEARS JUST BEFORE THE SYNCHRONY PROJECT WAS LAUNCHED. WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY CHILD PSYCHIATRIST JOHN CONSTANTINO SAYS IT’S RARE TO TRY TO HELP BOTH KIDS AND THEIR PARENTS, BUT HE SAYS THAT’S WHAT THE SYNCHRONY PROJECT ATTEMPTS TO DO.

(act) :24 o/c health care

At risk children are medically insured, but often their parents

aren’t. Systems of mental health and health care that are

available to the babies are not available to the parents. You

end up in the situation of trying to support an infant, or a

young child, when the person that you need to support most is

the parent, and yet they don’t have access to mental health care.

CONSTANTINO SAYS SYNCHRONY IS BASED ON A SIMILAR PROGRAM STARTED SEVERAL YEARS AGO IN THE NEW ORLEANS AREA. AND HE SAYS THE APPROACH APPEARS TO BE PUTTING A LOT OF KIDS ON THE ROAD TO A BETTER LIFE.

(act) :23 o/c SYNCHRONY project

We’re recognizing unmet mental health needs, delivering them early.

The interventions that were done unequivocally resulted in improved

functioning of the babies, and children, and in fact, the total time

that the children are in foster care was reduced within the children

in the SYNCHRONY project.

CONSTANTINO SAYS WHEN KIDS ARE ABUSED OR NEGLECTED, THEY END UP AT HIGH RISK FOR A LOT OF BAD THINGS LATER IN LIFE.

(act) :20 o/c of childhood

Psychiatric disorders, suicide, substance use impairment, or

becoming an abuse perpetrator yourself when you become an

adult. All of those are related, in a dose-response fashion,

to the number of cases of abuse you experience over the course

of childhood.

IF THERE’S ONLY A SINGLE CASE, CONSTANTINO SAYS, THE CHILD MAY BE OKAY. BUT IF THERE ARE TWO OR MORE TIMES THAT A CHILD IS ABUSED OR NEGLECTED, BIG PROBLEMS ARE MUCH MORE LIKELY.

(act) :18 o/c the goal

For children who are lucky enough to only have one episode

of abuse and no more after that in the official report records,

their outcomes were not that much worse than all kids in the

general population. So the idea is that if it happens once, to

make sure that it never happens again. That’s the goal.

CONSTANTINO’S GROUP REPORTS ON THE LAUNCH OF THE SYNCHRONY PROJECT IN THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PSYCHIATRY. I’M JIM DRYDEN…

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