Administration for Children's Services311Search all websites

Press Releases

July 01, 2013

Contact:, (212) 341-0999

ACS Commissioner Ronald E. Richter Addresses Conference on the Impact of Trauma

On June 11, 2013, Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) Commissioner Ronald E. Richter gave the opening remarks at the 8th annual conference on Prevention, Intervention and Treatment of Child Abuse held at the ACS Children’s Center in Manhattan. The conference titled “The Impact of Trauma on Children and Families: Moving Toward Resilience through Trauma-Informed Care,” was presented by the New York Center for Children, ACS, Prevent Child Abuse America, and the New York State Unified Court System Child Welfare Court Improvement Project.

The conference presented an overview of the complexity of the traumas faced by families, which was followed by presentations about specific New York City community-based and hospital-based programs that provide effective treatment and positive solutions to help children and families heal from their traumatic experiences. Over 200 professionals, including clinical therapists, foster care caseworkers and staff, child protection workers, lawyers, social workers, guidance counselors, teachers, doctors, nurses, child advocates, and childcare professionals attended the event.

In his welcome remarks, Commissioner Richter reiterated ACS’s commitment to meeting the mental health needs of our children, teens, and families who are involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. He outlined efforts to achieve this goal including the establishment of the ACS-NYU Children’s Trauma Institute to use trauma-related knowledge to improve our practice, and the partnership with the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital. The Commissioner noted that the partnership has received federal funding to improve trauma services for children and young people in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, and ensure that New York City will remain on the cutting-edge of children’s mental health, while producing ground-breaking research on identification and treatment of child trauma.

Commissioner Richter told the audience about the Atlas Project, a partnership between ACS, the Child Study Center, the Ulster County Department of Social Services and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services - that will serve as an integrated, trauma-informed, foster-care focused project. The project is aimed at strengthening mental health assessment and treatment for children in New York City and State as well as improving training for service providers.

He announced that ACS will use a four-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), whereby the ACS-NYU Trauma Institute will create and conduct trauma-informed screening and care in secure detention at two of our detention centers: Crossroads in Brooklyn, and Horizon in the Bronx. According to Commissioner Richter, this will make ACS “the first secure detention system in the country to implement trauma informed practices and training.” To date, in collaboration with a team of mental health professionals from Bellevue Hospital, nearly the entire staff at Crossroads has received trauma-informed training created specifically for juvenile justice staff. Commissioner Richter noted that the training had greatly improved staff morale at the facility.

Delivering the keynote address, Trauma Expert David Pelcovitz, PhD, Professor, Straus Chair in Psychology and Education,Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration at Yeshiva University,in a wide ranging presentation, said that even mild physical abuse has been shown to have long-term effects. However, he noted that even severely neglected and abused children can overcome the effects of such abuse if they receive help to build coping strategies.

Using stories to illustrate his key points, Dr. Pelcovitz outlined some of the evidence-based treatments that have proven to help children cope with the effects of abuse. They include psychoeducation -- understanding the impact of trauma and enhancing resiliency -- the importance of making a connection, that one person can make a tremendous difference to helping a child heal and thrive. He also stressed the importance of prevention of trauma and shared the story about a village where many residents injured themselves on a bridge going to another town. In this story, the citizens raised money for the treating hospital rather than to fix the bridge which caused the injuries. Read Dr. Pelcovitz’s presentation.

A practitioner’s panel which facilitated discussion on the conference topic followed the opening remarks. Panelists included Anne Williams-Isom, Chief Operating Officer of Harlem Children's Zone; Mel Schneiderman, PhD, Senior Vice President, Mental Health Services, New York Foundling and Co-Founder of the Vincent J. Fontana Center for Child Protection; Lisa Haileselassie, LCSW, Domestic Violence Coordinator of the St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Crime Victims Treatment Center, and Emily Murphy, LMSW, Social Work Supervisor, The Kathryn A. McDonald Education Advocacy Project, The Legal Aid Society, Juvenile Rights Practice.

Attendees participated in two workshops led by Jennifer Havens, MD, Vice Chair for Public Psychiatry in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine and Director and Chief of Service of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Bellevue Hospital Center, and Jennifer Baum, Associate Professor of Clinical Legal Education and Director, Child Advocacy Clinic, St. Vincent de Paul Legal Program, St. John's University School of Law.

Conference Chairs Katherine Teets Grimm, MD, Medical Director, New York Center for Childrenand Anne Reiniger, JD, LMSW, Past Chair, Prevent Child Abuse America, presided over the conference. The New York Center for Children is a child-friendly center providing free, comprehensive evaluation and therapy services to victims of child abuse and their families. NYCC also offers professional training programs on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of child abuse.