Board of trustees gets update on Network on Child Protection and Well-Being

Penn State's Network on Child Protection and Well-Being has hired six faculty researchers and has searches in progress for six others, with a goal of translating knowledge into practice and policy aimed at combating child maltreatment, Susan McHale told the Board of Trustees today (Jan. 17).

"Child maltreatment is a complex and systemic problem that is difficult to study and hard to treat," said McHale, director of Penn State's Children, Youth and Families Consortium (CYFC) and Social Science Research Institute (SSRI), and coordinator of the Network. "We are building new knowledge, including providing evidence on whether programs and policies designed for child abuse prevention, detection or treatment are effective. A key effort in turning knowledge into action is building relationships with the local, state and national groups who share our concerns."

McHale spoke about the Network's goal to build collaborations across the University that will address the complex problems of child maltreatment. A key initiative is through a cluster hire of at least 12 faculty members in departments and colleges across Penn State including, Human Development and Family Studies, Biobehavioral Health, Law, Psychology, Education, Pediatrics, and Sociology and Criminology.

New Network faculty include Jennie Noll, professor of human development and family studies; Chad Shenk, assistant professor of human development; Lori Frasier, director of the Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital Division of Child Abuse Pediatrics; and Idan Shalev, assistant professor of biobehavioral health. Two additional faculty members, Brian Allen and Kent Hymel, will join the College of Medicine later this semester.

"The cluster hire is designed to bring faculty members from different disciplines together to address the problem of child maltreatment in new ways," McHale said.

Margaret Gray, director of administration and policy, along with Noll, the director of research and education, lead the Network. Faculty members and students in four foundational centers and 10 affiliates provide the wide-ranging, interdisciplinary expertise needed in addressing the complicated issues of child abuse and neglect.

"With these experts joining us and working with the experts who are already at Penn State, we will be able to build synergies and develop new knowledge to better protect children and support their health and development," McHale said.

Faculty members involved in the CYFC conduct innovative and high-impact research on the behavior, health and development of children, their families and their communities and are nationally and internationally recognized leaders in this field. In November 2012, based on a proposal by the Presidential Task Force on Child Maltreatment, the University created the Network, which built on the Penn State faculty expertise and CYFC's established mechanisms that support, fund and promote interdisciplinary research.

The Network's third annual conference, "The Role of Parenting and Family Processes in Child Maltreatment and Intervention" is scheduled for May 5-6, 2014, at the Nittany Lion Inn on Penn State's University Park campus.

In September 2013, the Network hosted its second annual Conference on Child Protection and Well-Being. The event attracted district attorneys, children and youth services professionals, law enforcement officials and medical professionals as well as Penn State faculty for presentations and discussions about the development of multidisciplinary investigative teams and child advocacy centers across Pennsylvania.

The inaugural conference on "Sexual Abuse: Traumatic Impact, Prevention and Intervention" was held in October 2012.

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Last Updated March 11, 2014