Military Children and Families: Programs and Projects

These programs and projects work with the NCTSN to conduct research on, develop resources for, and provide assistance to military families.

The main Military Children and Families page provides links to military family resources.

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Uniformed Services University (USU)
Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (CSTS)

A primary mission of the USU CSTS is optimizing the health of our nation's service members, families, and children. CSTS is a part of the Department of Psychiatry of USU, our nation's federal medical school specializing in military health education and clinical care. CSTS was established in 1987 in response to concerns at the U.S. Department of Defense about the psychological effects and health consequences of traumatic events such as war; exposure to weapons of mass destruction; natural disasters; and accidents on land, on the sea, and in the air. Bringing together world-renowned military and civilian psychiatrists, CSTS works to advance knowledge, research, and interventions that inform trauma prevention and treatment at the individual, family, community, and national levels.

In addition, CSTS:

  • Develops and disseminates military-specific health resources including fact sheets and electronic communication for military and civilian providers, and military families;
  • Creates assessment instruments for health professionals working with military families and children;
  • Provides subject matter expertise in military child and family trauma to national leaders and the media.

A CSTS-developed instrument, Parent Guidance Assessment - Combat Injury (PGA-CI) , is available to help medical professionals gather family information about injured service members.

For further information and to access resources on military children and families, visit the website of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress

USU Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress is a partnering center of the Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury .


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Child and Family Program, Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, National Child Traumatic Stress Network Category II Site

The Child and Family Program of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences' Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (CSTS) is a Category II site of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). The director of the Child and Family Program, Stephen Cozza, MD, and his staff serve as subject matter experts in military child and family trauma for the NCTSN. In this role they provide trauma-informed and evidence-based information on the psychological effects and health consequences of parental combat experiences on military children.

The Child and Family Program also conducts research and disseminates knowledge about military child maltreatment; family violence; and the impact of combat injury on service members, their families, and children.

Read CSTS's Principles of Caring for Combat Injured Families and their Children (PDF) to learn the ten principles that should guide the practice of medical and community providers serving military families.


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UCLA/National Center for Child Traumatic Stress FOCUS Project for Military Families

The FOCUS Project (Families OverComing Under Stress) is a program designed to build resiliency in military families and children facing the multiple challenges associated with combat operational stress during wartime. FOCUS was co-developed by the UCLA Center for Community Health and the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress (NCTSN). The project, geared to at-risk families, promotes evidence-based intervention models, which have successfully demonstrated positive emotional, behavioral, and adaptive outcomes.

In the United States today, approximately 1.2 million children have a parent on active duty. In the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, about 40 percent of service members have at least one dependent child under the age of 18. Throughout all the branches of the United States military, children are affected by a recent or current deployment of a parent to the combat zones of Iraq or Afghanistan.

In spring 2007 the Defense Health Board Task Force on Mental Health identified a critical need for prevention and intervention services to foster resiliency within military families, and to provide increased access to and continuity of psychological health care for children and families across the armed services. Research on parents with stress reactions has demonstrated that such stressors interfere with parenting, family life, and child adjustment—disrupting family roles and routines, and decreasing support within the family.

In response to a growing awareness about the deleterious effects of these deployments on military family life and on child and family well-being, the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) of the U.S. Department of the Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) are supporting a new initiative. Addressing concerns related to parental combat operational stress injuries and combat-related physical injuries, state-of-the-art family resiliency services have been provided to military children and families through FOCUS since the spring of 2008.

As a service project funded through the BUMED, FOCUS provides services for families based at the nine U.S. Marines, U.S. Seabee, and U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command installations from Okinawa, Japan, to Gulfport, Mississippi. Headquartered at UCLA, FOCUS is working closely with the BUMED office in Washington, D.C., and the Combat Operational Stress Control team at the USMC headquarters in Quantico, Virginia, as well as partnering with Duke University's Center for Child and Family Health, in Durham, North Carolina, and Catholic Charities International, in Jackson, Mississippi.

Working with the existing teams of dedicated military family services personnel, FOCUS staff will assist families to better understand how combat operational stress affects them and their service family member, how to manage it, and how to strengthen themselves and their children in readiness for tomorrow.

For more information, read a project brochure and press release on FOCUS, or visit the FOCUS website


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Family-Informed Trauma Treatment (FITT) Center

The FITT Center's goal is to develop, evaluate, disseminate, and put into practice approaches that promote safety and recovery for all family members. Military and veteran families are considered special populations due to their unique experiences of multiple and lengthy deployments, reintegrations, injury to or loss of family members, and isolation. Additional stressors for these families include disruptions to family structures and routines, concerns about children's functioning at home and in school, resource limitations, and navigating complex service systems.

Skills-based therapies that enhance rituals and routines, improve communication, and increase access to community-based services hold promise for supporting family recovery and resilience. The FITT Center increases access to skills-based family treatments that are trauma-specific and family-centered. With a clinician embedded in the Veterans Affairs (VA) Maryland Health Care System and the Baltimore Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, FITT works with interdisciplinary teams to identify and treat military families in a safe and familiar environment.

Current evidence-based therapies include Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Alternatives for Families - A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (AF-CBT), Families OverComing Under Stress (FOCUS), Strengthening Families' Coping Resources, and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT), all of which are described in the FITT Center flier (PDF).

Learn more about the mission of the FITT Center and its affiliated programs at the Center's website.


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