CARE Program Vital to Understanding, Treating and Preventing Child Abuse

Published Online November 22, 2015
Child Abuse & Neglect

When it comes to the role the Mayerson Center plays in treating abused and maltreated children, two important numbers emerge: 2 million and 2,000.

The former reflects documented abuse cases occurring annually in the U.S. The latter shows how many children our Child Abuse Team treats each year.

The center’s experience at helping abused children has made it a leader in training others. Now a study in Child Abuse & Neglect demonstrates the effectiveness of that training.

The center launched the Child-Adult Relationship Enhancement (CARE) program in 2006 to enhance trauma-informed skills of mental health providers. It has expanded to involve caregivers, child-welfare workers, educators, and others.

The program trains adults how to support and engage children considered at risk for abuse, such as foster kids. These children often struggle with mental and physical health, and with forming positive social relationships.

A survey of more than 100 CARE trainees reports that 99.2 percent said the training changed their practices. Also, 98 percent said they would recommend the program.

Now, the center is studying CARE training for foster parents.

The study’s authors included Erica Messer, PsyD, Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology; and Erna Olafson, PhD, PsyD, and Barbara Boat, PhD, of the Childhood Trust.

Messer says CARE training can help caregivers provide the stable relationships that so many abused children need.

“Children depend on stable relationships to thrive academically, emotionally, medically and socially,” says Messer. “Most in foster-care are victims of maltreatment, including abuse, neglect or abandonment that has brought them to the attention of Child Protective Services.”

Fig A:  A: Psychologists Robin Gurwitch, in front in light green shirt, and Erica Messer, in front row (center), are joined by a group of CARE trainees in 2015.
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Fig B: In 2008, Messer traveled to Tokyo, Japan, where she taught the principles of CARE to a group of mental health professionals, shown here. The group continues to use CARE and CARE research in Japan is currently under way.
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Gurwitch RH, Messer EP, Masse J, Olafson E, Boat BW, Putnam FW. Child-Adult Relationship Enhancement (CARE): An evidence-informed program for children with a history of trauma and other behavioral challenges. Child Abuse Negl. 2016 Mar;53:138-45.