The National Center for Child Traumatic Stress

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Description of the National Center

The National Center for Child Traumatic Stress (NCCTS) provides leadership, organizational structure, and coordination to the current grantees, Affiliates, and partners of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). Working closely with the Network's funding agency—the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)—the NCCTS leads the Network in its efforts to increase access to services and raise the standard of care for children and their families across the United States who have experienced trauma.
Since 2001, the NCCTS has had a unique, bicoastal structure, combining the resources of the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and the Duke University Medical Center. Under the guidance of co-directors Robert Pynoos, MD, MPH (UCLA) and John Fairbank, PhD (Duke), the NCCTS has taken a leadership role in child trauma policy, practice, research, and training, specifically through public education, workforce development, improved access to quality treatment, policy analysis and education, development of effective trauma-informed evidence-based practices, and initiatives to address gaps in services for underserved children and special populations.
The NCCTS manages an evolving, collaborative network of diverse academic and community-based centers, changing the course of children’s lives by changing the course of their care through:

  • Building Network culture and consensus. Together with SAMHSA, NCCTS has created a complex, effective organizational structure, along with a shared Network identity, mission and vision, and governance framework. NCCTS has led NCTSN through periods of tremendous growth and change, working to ensure the continuity of core values: collaboration, transparency, family and consumer involvement, and cultural competence.
  • Fostering effective collaborations. NCCTS has created multi-layer support structures for NCTSN collaboration, including the Liaison team, collaborative groups, product development processes, IT infrastructure, and mechanisms for information sharing.
  • Developing innovative training and implementation protocols. NCCTS’ adaptation of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Breakthrough Series Collaborative model has enabled the Network to move beyond “one-shot trainings” to achieve sustainable practice changes driven by implementation science principles.
  • Expanding the Network’s reach. NCCTS has expanded the reach of NCTSN to thousands of community and national partners, by utilizing innovative technology platforms, developing resources for diverse audiences, expanding our Affiliate program to leverage expertise regardless of funding status, providing leadership in creating trauma-informed child-serving systems, supporting NCTSN members’ efforts to raise awareness about child trauma at the local and state levels, and providing policy analysis and education to federal and state policymakers and other stakeholders. 


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National Center Programs

The NCCTS operates programs in the following areas:

Data and Evaluation, Program Director: Ernestine Briggs-King, PhD
The Data and Evaluation Program (DEP) provides administrative and scientific leadership and technical expertise for the NCTSN related to data collection, management, and analysis, selecting appropriate assessment and measurement tools, and evaluation. The DEP manages two large data collection and evaluation efforts. The Clinical Improvement through Measurement Initiative (CIMI) is a patient-centered treatment approach that promotes individualized care through the focused application of data for case conceptualization, treatment, and monitoring of clinical progress. CIMI builds on the NCTSN Core Data Set, an initiative that includes comprehensive information on approximately 20,000 children and adolescents. The Collaborative Change Project (CoCaP) is a continuous quality improvement effort utilizing organizational data to answer such questions as “Are we meeting our goals?” and “Are we allocating resources in an efficient manner?” Additionally, the DEP supports the development of data and evaluation capacity and evaluation of implementation through the Evaluation Community of Practice, Data Operations Advisory Committee, the Assessment and Screening Coordinating Committee, and the Publication Review Committee.

Education in Evidence-based Practices, Program Director: Christopher Layne, PhD
The Education in Evidence-Based Practice Program seeks to promote the implementation of core principles, methods, and values of evidence-based practice throughout the NCTSN. By evidence-based practice, the Program means a way of professional life that comprises essential competencies, practices, values, and aspects of professional comportment. Evidence-based practice strives to provide clients with “best practice” care by employing the best empirical evidence; using valid and reliable assessment instruments and methods; considering each client’s strengths, needs, life circumstances, and informed wishes; and drawing on one’s professional clinical knowledge, reasoning skills, and judgment. The Program’s Core Curriculum on Childhood Trauma strengthens foundational clinical knowledge, reasoning skills, and other competencies required to work effectively with traumatized youth, families, and communities. Implemented throughout the NCTSN and in graduate schools and community agencies across the US, the Core Curriculum has online resources available through the NCTSN Learning Center. The Program also offers NCTSN Intervention Fact Sheets (both general and culture-specific), which describe trauma-focused, manualized treatment and/or intervention protocols developed or implemented by various NCTSN sites.

Military and Veteran Families, Program Director: Gregory Leskin, PhD
The Military and Veteran Families Program formed in response to the increasing awareness that military-connected children and families can be significantly affected by their experiences associated with life in the military, including combat deployment. NCTSN sites with military-informed staff are situated throughout the US to provide child trauma-related services to active duty, reserve, National Guard, and veteran families and children. The Military and Veteran Families Program pursues the following goals: (1) to provide education and training to NCTSN sites on a variety of military–related issues; (2) to provide consultation, technical assistance, and support to enable NCTSN sites to implement trauma-informed, evidence-based interventions and approaches to military families and children; and (3) to form key national, state, and regional partnerships, including with military treatment facilities and medical providers, in order to improve services for military-connected families and children.
Contact us:
For more information related to the work of this Program see:
Military and Veteran Families and Children

Policy, Program Director: Diane Elmore, PhD
The Policy Program works with NCTSN members, Affiliates, and partners to share critical information about child trauma and the NCTSN with policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels through direct communication, congressional briefings, and other events. At conferences, through NCTSN webinars, and via individual technical assistance, the Program teaches and trains NCTSN members on issues related to policy, advocacy, and strategies for effectively working with policymakers. The Policy Program also provides leadership for the NCTSN Policy Task Force, a leadership and advisory group of the NCTSN. In addition, the Program provides consultation to other NCCTS programs, NCTSN collaborative groups, and individual sites regarding specific policy issues related to the NCTSN mission. The Policy Program collaborates with the NCCTS Product Development Team, the NCTSN Policy Task Force, and individual NCCTS programs to develop and disseminate a range of resources for professionals, the public, and policymakers. Finally, the Program supports information and resource exchange with key partners, including NCTSN Advisory Board members, through participation in national coalitions, in collaborative briefings, and at events for policymakers and key stakeholders.
Contact us:
For more information related to the work of this Program see:
Policy Issues

Service Systems, Program Director: Jane Halladay Goldman, PhD
The Service Systems Program seeks to increase awareness of child traumatic stress and to improve cultural and linguistic competence within child-serving systems, so children and families have access to safe, effective, trauma-informed services. Toward this end, the Program builds strategic partnerships, educates and trains, and develops resources to address gaps in knowledge and skills among a wide range of child-serving systems (schools, child welfare, juvenile justice, health care) and the general public (caregivers and families). The Program also engages in development, evaluation, and dissemination activities aimed at the improved implementation of trauma-informed practices and the enhancement of cross-system collaboration.
For more information related to the work of this Program see:
Creating Trauma-Informed Systems

Site Integration and Collaboration, Program Director: Jennifer Grady, MSSW
The Site Integration and Collaboration Program facilitates communication and the provision of technical assistance among Network members, NCCTS, and other key NCTSN stakeholders. Program initiatives include site consultation, brokering resources and collaboration among Network members, assisting the multi-faceted work of topical collaborative groups, coordinating the Affiliate Program, and leading the engagement and inclusion of family members and young adults in NCTSN initiatives and activities. Through in-person site visits and virtual activities, Program staff are able to identify and elevate trends, collaborative successes, and best and promising practices throughout the NCTSN.

Terrorism and Disaster, Program Director: Melissa Brymer, PsyD, PhD
The Terrorism and Disaster Program (TDP) works to promote the behavioral health of children and families by strengthening our nation’s response capacities before, during, and after terrorism, disaster, and mass violence. Program goals include raising awareness of the scope and serious impact of disasters on the behavioral health of children, families, and communities; shaping public policy to promote effective behavioral health policy before, during, and after mass casualty events; and—through collaborative efforts—developing effective evidence-based programs for use immediately after mass casualty events and during the long-term recovery or adjustment phase. In addition, the Program has established partnerships toward the adoption of best practices (e.g., Psychological First Aid, Skills for Psychological Recovery) and is improving access to care through real-time training and consultation (e.g., PFA Mobile, PFA Online, SPR Online). Finally, the Program develops products for all child-serving systems and for parents on assisting children and families after mass casualty events (e.g., Trinka and Sam children's book series, Help Kids Cope app for parents). Resources are available for natural disasters, terrorism, and school crises.

Training and Implementation, Program Director: George Ake, PhD
The Training and Implementation Program (TIP) provides leadership and consultation on approaches to the dissemination, implementation, and sustained use of trauma-specific evidence-based treatments and interventions in agencies and child-serving systems. TIP emphasizes successful training- and capacity-building approaches, including the use and facilitation of NCTSN Learning Collaboratives and Breakthrough Series Collaboratives. TIP initiatives include development of an NCTSN Implementation Task Force, leading a summit on the state of implementation in the NCTSN, and ongoing development of web-based trainings, resources, and organizational tools to assist NCTSN members in their training and implementation efforts.
Contact us:
For more information related to the work of this Program see:
Training and Implementation
TOOLCIT Curriculum

A complete directory of NCCTS staff is available here.

The NCCTS also hosts the Learning Center for Child and Adolescent Trauma, which offers free continuing education programs, multimedia resources, and access to online communities of practice.

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