The 2017 San Diego International Conference: distinctive multidisciplinary approach
"To create a coordinated community response to child abuse and neglect." This was the original objective of a highly motivated group of professionals with different backgrounds – legal experts, child welfare, probation, social work, medicine and more – who gathered in San Diego in 1975.
Their ideas became real in the establishment of different groups and organizations for child abuse review and study, prevention and treatment. A modest initiative at Rady Children's Hospital San Diego developed into the Chadwick Center, from 1986 the main organizing power behind the annual San Diego Conference, the world's most prominent expert event on child and family maltreatment. At its 30st anniversary, last year, the conference had grown into an international multidisciplinary exchange of expertise of great distinction.
American experts have taken an impressive lead in most aspects of child and family maltreatment knowledge – Europeans generally travel to the Californian congress to learn, and evince no more than a moderate presence on the San Diego stage.
Recommended for Euro-delegates
The programme of the 2017 edition (January 29th - February 3rd) lives up to its reputation with a broad scope of lectures in the fields of prevention, treatment and research. Recommended for European delegates would be the sessions that concern multidisciplinary teams/centers, (forensic) interviewing, refugee and displaced children, trafficking of minors, and children with disabilities, says professor Francien Lamers-Winkelman (Amsterdam, Netherlands). Having participated at all 30 editions of the conference, professor Lamers is a San Diego veteran. As an expert in child abuse and neglect she has involved and motivated many of her staff and colleagues from different disciplines over the years to travel to the San Diego Bay and participate.
Lamers: "I do think that we 'Europeans', and especially we Dutch professionals, can learn a lot from the American expertise, and style. One of the most important aspects is the absolute willingness to work together for the sake of abused children and their families. Full cooperation with regard to child maltreatment by all disciplines – legal, medical, mental health, social work et cetera – is needed to manage child maltreatment. Moreover, not only working together, but also training together: the lawyer, the pediatrician, the social worker from the child protection agency, the public prosecutor and the psychiatrist, psychologist. But also trying to influence politicians together, looking for funds together."
Children do not vote
Professor Lamers strongly criticizes "the reluctance of European clinicians, researchers and educators to recognize and acknowledge child maltreatment as a real problem in our societies, which withholds them from seriously digging into the issues of child and family maltreatment. And the attitude of politicians beats them all: a Children's Bureau at the Department of Health and Human Services, as initiated in the US, would be unthinkable in the Netherlands. Politicians are not in the least interested in child abuse, since children do not vote, their parents do."
"The majority of our American colleagues are much more knowledgeable with regard to all aspects of child maltreatment. They are dedicated to working in the field of child maltreatment, it is their job, and not something they encounter now and then. They are child abuse specialists. For instance, several Universities offer interdisciplinary training programmes for child Abuse disciplines, such as the Department of Pediatrics at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Oklahoma."
At the 2017 San Diego event, Francien Lamers will perform the William N. Friedrich Memorial Lecture on similarities and differences between the Dutch Child Sexual Behavior Inventory (2016) and the original American Child Sexual Behavior Inventory (1997).
Big data & child abuse research
Professor Jörg Fegert – spokesperson of the Competence Centre Child (sexual) Abuse and Neglect of the German state of Baden-Württemberg and co-spokesperson for the psychotrauma aspects of the transdisciplinary Trauma Research Centre at the University of Ulm (Germany) – predicts that the discussion on big data and the organization of datasets for care will increasingly apply to child abuse research. In this field the American investigators seem to be way ahead of their European colleagues as well. Research on all aspects of child maltreatment is much more developed in the USA than in European countries. The majority of the articles published in the field are of American origin. Professor Fegert points out that the various legal systems in Europe are quite different from countries with a common law approach like the US, UK and Australia. Other than in the medical field, the legal fragmentation in Europe stands in the way of large scale studies.
As a long-time advocate for the care of war children, Fegert expresses his high expectations for the San Diego plenary lecture by professor Vamik Djemal Volkan (University of Virginia) on Understanding the psychology of children of different age groups who are exposed to war trauma and/or who have become refugees.
Time for in-depth content
Child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Alfons Crijnen (Amsterdam, Netherlands) will travel to California to present a workshop on children who have witnessed murder during two one-hour sessions. "Most subjects at the San Diego Conference are programmed for one-and-a-half hour, which allows in-depth content", says Dr Crijnen, who also praises the multidisciplinary approach of the American child abuse experts. Crijnen shows great respect for "the systematic and trauma-informed approach – boosted by the Chadwick Center – of child and family maltreatment at this conference." In collaboration with the Dutch Knowledge Centre for Child and Adolescence Psychiatry, Dr Crijnen is also involved in a presentation on advocacy on abuse and neglect.
Dr William N. Friedrich (1951-2005) was a professor of psychology and a prominent child abuse researcher at the University of Washington and the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota. He was also a faculty member of the Eastern European Children’s Mental Health Society.
Bill Friedrich published the Child Sexual Behavior Inventory, a praised and commonly accepted psychological test which will be benchmarked to the European standards by this year's speaker – professor Lamers-Winkelman – at the annual memorial lecture at the San Diego Conference that was established in his honour. View the abstract.
Read the obituary from the Child Maltreatment journal (2008).
The Nurse-Family Partnership (University of Colorado, Denver) has inspired Dr Alfons Crijnen to adapt and implement the programme – 'Voorzorg' – in Amsterdam for the prevention of child abuse. Several studies proved the effectiveness of Voorzorg in the Netherlands; maltreatment was significantly lower amongst families that took part in the programme, and additionally the long-term home environments were improved and internalizing behaviours of the children were lower.
The Children's Bureau, an office of the US Administration for Children & Families, has published its 26th annual report (17 Januari 2017) about child abuse and neglect known to child protective services agencies in the United States during the year 2015.
The report contains monitoring of child maltreatment with a victim rate in 2015 of 9.2 victims per thousand children. Detailed information is provided about the number of allegations and reports of child abuse, sources of reported child maltreatment, the victims, the most common types of maltreatment, the number of deaths, the perpetrators and the receivers of services.
This sophisticated and transparent monitoring of child and family maltreatment is a core activity of the Bureau, along with supporting programmes and research that prevent child abuse and neglect while ensuring that children who are victims receive treatment and care.
The Children's Bureau provides funding to states and tribes to help them strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect. Funding also provides for child abuse and neglect assessment, investigation, prosecution, and treatment activities.
View or download the Child Maltreatment Report (pdf, 248 pages).
Go to the Children's Bureau website.
Apart from the presentations by professor Lamers-Winkelman and Dr Crijnen, other European contributions at the San Diego Conference are presented by Dr Asa Kastbom (Linköping, Sweden), Dr Cecilia Kjellgren (Linnaeus University, Sweden), Dr Therese Kvist (Karolinska Insitutet, Sweden), Johanna Thulin (Linnaeus University, Sweden), Silje Braastad (Center for Survivors of Sexual Abuse, Norway), Ingfrid Vaksdal Brattabø (University of Bergen, Norway), Rachel Vorren (Center Against Incest and Sexual Abuse, Norway), Hester Marieke Diderich-Lolkes de Beer (Medical Center Haaglanden, Netherlands), Lonneke Buijteweg (University Medical Center Utrecht, Netherlands), Maaike Brunekreef (Isala Hospital, Netherlands), Anita Nanhoe (Rotterdam, Netherlands), Maartje Schouten (University Medical Center Utrecht, Netherlands), Vidija Soerdjbalie-Maikoe (Netherlands Forensic Institute), Marie-José van Hoof (Mental Health Institute GGZ Rivierduinen, Netherlands), Jeroen van de Ven (Isala Hospital, Netherlands), Maria Andrews (GGD Haaglanden, Netherlands), and Ariëlle M. de Ruijter (Dutch Knowledge Centre for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Netherlands).
Go to the San Diego programme pages.
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