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Pioneers in Child Abuse & Neglect

In addition to the Institute's commitment to providing direct clinical services, an emphasis is placed on developing research and publications to enhance the understanding of the dynamics of child abuse, while also examining effective diagnostic and treatment approaches for children who have suffered abuse.

Esther Deblinger, PhD, is an internationally recognized expert in trauma therapies for children, and has conducted extensive research with her colleagues in an effort to identify, design and evaluate effective therapies for children who have suffered abuse. This research, which began with a $25,000 grant from the Foundation of UMDNJ and to date has attracted over $5.8 million in federal research grants, resulted in the scientifically supported Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT).

For nearly 18 years, Dr. Deblinger and her colleagues have developed and refined TF-CBT for addressing the needs of children who have suffered sexual abuse and their non-offending caregivers. This treatment outcome research has been funded by grants from the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) geared toward identifying effective treatment strategies for this population. In fact, the empirically supported treatment model developed as a result of this research has been recognized by SAMHSA as a model program and given an “Exemplary Program Award” as a result of the extensive outcome data supporting its utility. Dr. Deblinger and her co-developers, Drs. Judith Cohen and Anthony Mannarino, just completed the largest and first multi-site treatment outcome investigation on the treatment of PTSD and other difficulties among children who suffered sexual abuse. The findings of this investigation further corroborated the effectiveness of this model program (i.e., Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or TF-CBT).

In addition, Martin A. Finkel, DO, FAAP, is considered a pioneer in the medical evaluation and treatment of child sexual abuse. Dr. Finkel is the author of the first scientific paper published in the medical literature on the healing and interpretation of acute genital or anal trauma. Dr. Finkel has also led the way in utilizing videocolposcopy equipment for the assessment and documentation of injuries residual to sexual abuse. Dr. Finkel is the author of numerous articles, book chapters and a textbook on the medical evaluation of the sexually abused child.

Finally, the Institute's research program has expanded over the past three years with the development of our child physical abuse therapy program. Melissa K. Runyon, PhD, is completing the third and final year of a NIMH-funded treatment development grant. Dr. Runyon’s grant compares group Combined Parent-Child Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that addresses the needs of the child and the offending parent in families in which physical abuse occurs, and group CBT for the offending parent only. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) has identified Combined Parent-Child CBT as a promising practice. Dr. Runyon is seeking funding for another grant entitled “Comparison of Group Versus Individual CBT for Child Physical Abuse” to continue to develop this program of research. This involves a larger clinical trial to empirically support treatment strategies for children who have been physically abused, as well as to further identify factors that mediate and moderate treatment outcomes for this population.