New child maltreatment research center launched with $6.5 million NIH grant

Faculty News

Melissa Jonson-Reid, the Ralph and Muriel Pumphrey Professor of Social Work Research at the Brown School, and her team, including faculty from several disciplines across Washington University in St. Louis and Saint Louis University, have received a five-year, $6,496,050 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create The Center for Innovation in Child Maltreatment Policy Research and Training (CICM).

“Child abuse and neglect is a widespread and complex problem, linked to a number of negative downstream outcomes and incurring substantial costs across individual, family and societal levels,” Jonson-Reid said.


“CICM will assemble an extraordinary group of more than 40 researchers and experts from multiple disciplines and major research universities and organizations across the country,” Jonson-Reid said, “dedicated to advancing transdisciplinary science and innovative dissemination and training approaches to prevent child maltreatment and promote healthy development among victims of abuse and neglect.”

The CICM will have a major emphasis on community engagement and training, including the Community Engagement Core (CEC), which will be co-directed by David Patterson Silver Wolf, associate professor at the Brown School, and Nancy Weaver, professor of behavioral science and health education at the Saint Louis University College of Public Health and Social Justice. The CEC will engage community, practice and policy stakeholders in the development of research; develops innovative means of dissemination of knowledge to the practice and policy community; and executes a number of educational and training programs to build the next generation of practitioners and researchers.

As part of the award, two large research projects will be funded through the CICM:

  • Child Welfare Data SMART (Specification, Management, Analysis, Replication & Transfer), a multistate project led by Brett Drake, professor at the Brown School. “In the past 10 years, the study of child maltreatment has been revolutionized by the availability of large datasets and improvements in computer technology. These advances have created a new opportunity for researchers and public organizations to join together and improve services for children and families. The DataSMART project will establish a ‘Common Data Structure,’ which can be adopted by participating states, along with a library of cutting edge policy-relevant analysis programs. This will allow any state to use ‘off the shelf’ analytic products to support a truly evidence-based policy approach.”
  • Identification of Newborns at High Risk for the Occurrence of Preventable Child Maltreatment, led by John Constantino, the Blanche F. Ittleson Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics and director of the William Greenleaf Eliot Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. “This project builds on the division’s Perinatal Behavioral Health Service — an extensive program of mental health support for new mothers embedded in the Obstetrics and Newborn Medicine Services of Barnes Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital,” Constantino said. “The study will implement long-term support strategies to prevent child abuse, initiated within the health system during the first days of a baby’s life.”

The NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) awarded the grant to Washington University in September, in addition to funding for a collaborative center involving the University of Rochester, New York, and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

The first capstone center grant was awarded in 2017 to the Pennsylvania State University, University Park, to establish the Translational Center for Child Maltreatment Studies.

The NIH is investing a total of nearly $21 million over five years for the three centers, pending the availability of funds.

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