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Press Release

Effects Witnessing Violence has on Children Focus of Butler Hospital/Family Service of RI Professional Education Program
02/28/2011

The effects that witnessing violence has on children is the topic of the Butler Hospital/Family Service of Rhode Island 6th annual professional education lecture on Friday, March 25, 2011. Titled Children Exposed to Violence: Current Research and Implications for Clinical Practice, the program will feature nationally acclaimed experts in research, clinical practice, and policy decision making, as well as a number of local panelists.

Research shows that millions of children and adolescents in the United States are exposed to violence in their homes, schools and communities, as both victims and witnesses. All too often, these children are at risk for physical, mental, and emotional harm, including anxiety and depression, attachment difficulties, regressive behavior and conduct problems. One of the program’s speakers, Audrey Tyrka, MD, PhD, associate chief of Butler Hospital’s Mood Disorders Program, who is studying the relationship of childhood trauma to adult psychiatric disorders, says, “While preventing maltreatment from happening to all children is the ideal, if we better understand who is most vulnerable, we can fortify social services, reduce stressors, and develop targeted physician and school interventions to help protect children from developing psychiatric illnesses in the first place.”

Family Service of Rhode Island is doing just that through collaboration with police, housing, educational and welfare services to provide trauma informed care for families. “We are dedicated to providing innovative and research based practices to families exposed to violence and trauma and to building partnerships which recognize that we must make a difference in this critical national issue,” says Susan Erstling, PhD, who is the Senior VP of Trauma, Intake and Emergency Services for Family Service of RI.

Joining Dr. Tyrka will be Betsy McAlister Groves, MSW, LICSW, Director, Child Witness to Violence Project, Boston Medical Center and author of Children Who See Too Much: Lessons from the Child Witness to Violence Project; and Elena Cohen, MSW, MEd, director of the Safe Start Center in Washington, DC, an expert on families with special needs children and the mental health needs of Hispanic children. The guest panelists will be Deborah DeBare, Executive Director, Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Margaret Holland McDuff, MA, MBA, CEO, Family Service of Rhode Island; and Colonel Dean Esserman, JD, Chief, Providence Police Department, Senior Law Enforcement Executive in Residence, Roger Williams University School of Justice Studies.

The lecture will be held at the Ray Conference Center at Butler Hospital from 8:30 am to noon. Registration fee is $50, which includes a light breakfast and three continuing education units for physicians, psychologists, nurses, social workers, mental health counselors, teachers, school psychologists, school social workers.

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