The U.S. Army, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), has awarded researchers at NYU College of Dentistry funding to implement an evidence-based program to assess and respond to incidents of family maltreatment in the military. The researchers will receive an estimated $21 million in federal funding over 10 years to support the Army in successfully adopting the model, which has been shown to improve fairness and reduce further maltreatment.
Each branch of the U.S. military has a Family Advocacy Program, the military equivalent of civilian Child Protective Services but with responsibility for investigating and handling family maltreatment incidents, including domestic violence and child abuse and neglect. In an effort to improve the reliability of decisions made by Family Advocacy Programs, clinical psychologists Richard Heyman and Amy Slep of the Family Translational Research Group at NYU Dentistry partnered with the U.S. Air Force nearly two decades ago to develop and test a model for reviewing family maltreatment cases.
The model they developed involves a multidisciplinary Incident Determination Committee (IDC)—with representation from social work, military law enforcement, and military officers—as well as a computerized decision support tool and standardized processes for assessments, meetings, and documentation.
In studying the IDC model with the Air Force, the researchers concluded that it is possible to institute criteria and decision-making systems—supported by training of both staff and committee members—that not only resulted in exceptionally high agreement (more than 90 percent) among those reviewing the cases, but it also reduced the recurrence of partner and child maltreatment by 50 percent. Based on these improvements, the researchers piloted the IDC model with the U.S. Army from 2015 to 2019, finding that the model was again fair, reliable, and reduced recidivism.
“Nearly half a million soldiers serve in the U.S. Army. Supporting soldiers and their families is a privilege and honor that we take very seriously,” said Slep, co-director of the Family Translational Research Group at NYU Dentistry and the project director for the new Army/USDA grant.
The new Army/USDA funding will support Heyman, Slep, and their research team in implementing the IDC model across the Army and sustaining it at a high level of quality. This includes creating and delivering tailored training programs to support the development of experts within the Army, as well as evaluating the quality of the program on an ongoing basis using a novel quality-assurance system.
“This project will ensure that the Army not only disseminates the model worldwide by October 2022 with high fidelity but also that installations will continue to implement it well, despite the constant turnover in military roles. It will also allow us to test the best ways of implementing the model to inform its sustainment over the next decade,” said Heyman, co-director of the Family Translational Research Group at NYU Dentistry and the project co-director for the new Army/USDA grant.
The Family Translational Research Group—part of the NYU Dentistry Center for Oral Health Policy and Management—studies family dynamics and dysfunction, including conflict and violence among partners, parents, and children. A key focus of the group’s work is on translating basic knowledge into effective interventions and on improving adoption of evidence-based practices.
USDA grant number: 20214858135661
About NYU College of Dentistry
Founded in 1865, New York University College of Dentistry (NYU Dentistry) is the third oldest and the largest dental school in the US, educating nearly 10 percent of all dentists. NYU Dentistry has a significant global reach with a highly diverse student body. Visit dental.nyu.edu for more.