P50 Center for Healthy Children


The Center for Healthy Children is a national resource center for child maltreatment research and training in the US and across the world where a cadre of transdisciplinary scientists work in conjunction with advocates, practitioners, and policy makers to resource, conduct, and disseminate impactful new science that can change health and developmental trajectories for victims, mobilize public investment in child maltreatment prevention and treatment, accelerate science to practice, spark dynamic system-wide solutions, and support and inspire future generations to do the same.

The center consists of two key research projects: the Child Health Study that tracks the biological embedding and pathways to resilience across development in child welfare-involved youth, and the Abusive Head Trauma Study that is a clinical trial of a clinical decision tool to detect abusive head trauma in 8 PICUs across the country. Further, the center has two innovative cores: the Dissemination and Outreach Core (DOC) translates research into messages that resonate with the lay public as well as policy makers, and engages the local and state child welfare community in community-directed research that addresses pressing questions with empirical support that can change policy and practice. The second core is the Policy & Engagement Core that aims to expose research findings and DOC products to policy makers, train the next generation of advocates and scientists, and create a national coalition of scientists and practitioners who work together on a rapid-response team to produce summaries of relevant research in response to requests from legislative offices who are working to enact and amend state and federal child welfare policy.

Penn State News Story on 1st National Center: 



The Aims of the P50 Center for Healthy Children are:

Conduct cutting-edge research

Discern the mechanisms of health disparities for abused and neglected children

  • Health screening, monitoring, referrals, and education for 1200 children in PA
  • Track mental, behavioral, and physical health outcomes across development
  • Spark novel interventions that promote resilience to mitigate deleterious outcomes
  • Demonstrate the costs of maltreatment and the benefit of prevention and treatment

Improve screening for abusive head trauma in pediatric intensive care settings

  • Implementation trial of a validated clinical decision rule in 8 hospitals around the country
  • Save lives of children who would otherwise return to abusive homes


Collaborate with state and local child welfare agencies to address pressing issues

Pennsylvania Time Use Study

  • Estimate time expenditures for various case types using case management data
  • Inform optimal caseloads and address caseworker burnout

Pennsylvania Sexual Assault Forensic Examination and Telehealth (SAFE-T) Center

  • Improve the quality and defensibility of sexual assault forensic exams using telehealth technology
  • Provide access to forensic evaluation of sexual abuse and assault in rural counties

Universal Sexual Abuse Prevention Trial

  • Educate 5% of adults, 100% of second-graders, and 100% of at-risk parents
  • Evaluate the impact of prevention on sexual abuse investigations and substantiations in PA

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Project

  • Determine scope of and risk factors for sexual exploitation across rural and urban counties

General Protective Services (GPS) Outcomes Study

  • Determine the cost-effectiveness of GPS interventions using administrative data (CWIS)
  • Prevent subsequent system contact and promote health and well-being outcomes

Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN) Impact Study

  • Use Swan administrative data to aid state quality improvement
  • Inform practices and policies to improve adoption services within PA


Translate science into:

Novel, optimized, and targeted interventions to improve health outcomes for maltreated children

Messages that resonate with legislators thereby

  • Imploring larger public investment in prevention and treatment
  • Increasing resources for child welfare


Inspire and train the next generation of researchers, caseworkers, and advocates

Child Maltreatment and Advocacy Studies (CMAS) minor

  • Core curriculum plus research, policy, and practice internships

Fostering Lions program to support foster care youth in matriculating in higher education


Serve as a National Resource to:

Grow new science

Develop models for impactful solutions that spark evidence-based practice and policy

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