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UAlbany Receives Grant for HEARTS Initiative to Expand Groundbreaking Work in Childhood Trauma

Capital Region among 14 Localities to Join National Learning Collaborative on Adversity and Resilience

UAlbany's grant will help the area collaborative network, the HEARTS Initiative, expand this groundbreaking work in ACE Response to promote community resilience.

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 29, 2015) – The University at Albany is leading an area collaborative network, HEARTS (Healthy Environments And Relationships That Support), to support research and services seeking to strengthen resilience in people who have experienced early childhood traumas, often referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

Research reveals strong associations between accumulated ACEs and high-cost, later life health and social problems. ACEs have become a serious public health problem, including in New York State. Exposure to accumulated early childhood adversity can leave tracks on the developing brain, leading to learning difficulties, behavioral struggles, and poor health later in life.

UAlbany School of Social Welfare Associate Professor Heather Larkin and her area partners have been extending and translating the nationally recognized ACE research into policies, programs, and practices that foster community resilience. The ACE Study was one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess associations between childhood maltreatment such as physical abuse by a parent, sexual abuse, or growing up with an incarcerated parent or caregiver and later-life health and well-being.

Larkin focuses on extending her research to disadvantaged groups served by social workers and emphasizing social work’s role as a leader in ACE Response (policies, programs, and practice) to promote community resilience.

UAlbany has been awarded nearly $300,000 for the Capital Region's HEARTS Initiative to expand this groundbreaking work in childhood trauma. The HEARTS Initiative concentrates its efforts on the Capital Region's most underserved, high-ACE scoring populations, including children from minority groups, people experiencing disabilities, and homeless people.

“This award significantly recognizes the great work being done by Dr. Larkin and her team,” said School of Social Welfare Dean and Vice Provost for Public Engagement Darrell P. Wheeler. “We are proud to see this research on childhood trauma become the cornerstone of a new and effective approach to teach resiliency to those who have experienced multiple childhood traumas.”

In addition to UAlbany, LaSalle School, and St. Anne Institute, members of the Capital Region HEARTS Initiative include:

• Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan
• Center for Disability Services
• Community Hospice
• Homeless and Travelers’ Aid Society
• Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless
• NYS Council on Children and Families
• NYS Department of Health representatives
• Parsons Child and Family Center/Northeast Parent and Child Society (North Rivers)
• Prevent Child Abuse NY
• St. Catherine’s Center for Children
• Senior Hope
• Soldiers’ Hope/Orenda Healing Arts
• Trinity Alliance
• Troy Housing Authority
• WAIT House

Taking the Regional Efforts to the National Stage

The Capital Region is one of only 14 communities across the country that will have an opportunity to expand their innovative HEARTS work in addressing childhood adversity through a new project launched by The Health Federation of Philadelphia, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The California Endowment.

Called Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities (MARC), the project supports communities building the movement to create a just, healthy, and resilient world. It will foster solutions to prevent traumatic childhood experiences – like neglect, abuse, and abandonment – in families throughout the nation. ACEs have been proven to have lifelong impacts on children’s health and behavior and the communities in which they live.

“The HEARTS Initiative was selected for MARC because it represents an outstanding model for how communities can use research on ACEs to engage and mobilize action. We look forward to sharing their best practices and learnings as we work together to create just, healthy, and resilient communities through the MARC project,” said Leslie Lieberman, MARC director of Philadelphia.

“LaSalle School has embedded core principles of ACE awareness and Trauma Informed Care in all aspects of our work with children and families and as part of our training of staff,” said LaSalle School Executive Director Bill Wolff, a co-PI on the new grant. “Our selection earlier this year as one of 10 organizations from across the United States to be part of the ‘Change in Mind’ Brain Science project positions us to contribute significantly to the MARC collaborative and the efforts to disseminate ACE-resilience knowledge and impact practices so that children and adults are better able to overcome the effects of trauma and live healthier lives.”

“MARC funds and the national learning community which we will join allow our region to accelerate interventions to promote ACE resilience and to help mitigate the negative effects of ACEs,” said School of Social Welfare Dean Emerita Katharine Briar-Lawson, a collaborator on the new grant.

Larkin, who heads the National Center for Excellence in Homeless Services and serves as the MARC Project Leader for the HEARTS Initiative said, “The MARC funds will allow us to move from a service-sector focus to a five-county community development, mobilization and action plan, along with statewide scale-up benefits through state agencies.”

MARC project recipients gather to discuss next steps in Philadelphia, Nov. 9-10.

Related Film Paper Tigers Shown Dec. 10 at Milne Hall

In collaboration with the ACE Think Tank and HEARTS Initiative, the School of Social Welfare and Prevent Child Abuse NY will present the documentary Paper Tigers on Thursday, Dec. 10, at 4:30 p.m. at 200 Milne Hall on UAlbany's downtown campus. Register online at to ensure a space at the event. 

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