El Centro Co-Hosts 9th Annual Child Welfare Conference

By SONHSNews

El Centro Co-Hosts 9th Annual Child Welfare Conference

By SONHSNews
On December 9, 2015 the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies’ (SONHS) Center of Excellence for Health Disparities Research: El Centro co-hosted the 9th Annual Miami Dade Community Based Care Alliance Child Welfare Conference.
This year’s theme was “Improving Frontline Practice through Therapeutic Jurisprudence” and focused on the topic of child welfare and related therapeutic approaches in addressing substance abuse, domestic violence and mental health among children and families interacting with the criminal justice system, many of whom have been affected by intimate partner violence. This theme aligns with El Centro’s mission to reduce health disparities in the areas of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, substance abuse, family and intimate partner violence, and associated mental and physical health conditions through research, education and collaboration with community and academic partners.

SONHS/El Centro faculty members Drs. Anthony Roberson and Rosa Gonzalez-Guarda served on the planning committee and presented at the event, which was held on the UM Coral Gables campus. Participants were approximately 280 of South Florida community child welfare professionals, including judges, case managers, attorneys, court staff, administrators, child welfare volunteers, advocates and other mental health professionals, all of whom received training on how to implement a therapeutic approach in the courts system that considers not only the prescribed route by law, but also the impact that science has shown such decisions have on the therapeutic process and consequently on the mental and physical well-being of the children involved with the court system.

“According to Florida Department of Children and Family statistics, the top three maltreatment areas are domestic violence, mental health disorders, and substance abuse,” said Gonzalez-Guarda, Co-Director of El Centro’s Community Engagement Dissemination and Implementation (CEDI) Core and a nationally recognized expert on the intersection between intimate partner violence, substance abuse and mental health disorders. El Centro’s CEDI Core aims to serve as a bi-directional bridge for the implementation of evidence-based practices in community systems. In this case, agencies which serve children involved in the dependency court were the target population served by the daylong seminar. “It is only through synergistic efforts with our community partners, such as happened at today’s event with the Miami Dade Community Based Care Alliance, that we can bring the best scientific knowledge to bear in addressing the needs of underserved and vulnerable populations on the front lines of practice, including the courts systems,” explained Gonzalez-Guarda.

Roberson, who has has extensively researched the intersection of therapeutic jurisprudence and mental health, especially among youth, said, "This unique event, coordinated between El Centro at the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies and several community partners, brought together judges, attorneys, case workers, investigators, and mental health professionals who work in the dependency court system. One of the overriding goals was to facilitate a dialogue among the various disciplines about the complexities we all face in treating this vulnerable and often-times ignored population. Identifying the most therapeutic legal approach in addressing the issues of mental health among our youth who are involved in the juvenile justice system will be critical as we move beyond the conference and return to our work with this population."