Boston College School of Social Work faculty member Theresa Betancourt, an internationally recognized expert in war-related childhood trauma, discussed her groundbreaking research at a major global conference in Beirut in late September.
VIDEO: Salem Professor in Global Practice Theresa Betancourt discusses her landmark 17-year study of emotional trauma experienced by former child soldiers.
Betancourt’s research in Sierra Leone has been cited as the most extensive examination of post-war intergenerational relationships since studies of Holocaust survivors. She has also undertaken projects in Rwanda, Uganda, India, Ethiopia, and the Russian Federation. Betancourt is currently involved in intervention studies to help promote early childhood development and prevent violence among families in extreme poverty in Rwanda, and works with refugees in Boston and in communities around the world.
She has devised her own child protection framework, SAFE, which reflects the basic and interrelated security needs and rights that are central to promoting child protection: Safety from harm; Access to basic needs such as food, shelter and medical care; Family or connection to “attachment figures”; and Education and economic security. The framework has been employed by Betancourt in India, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and northern Uganda, as well as by other researchers in Haiti, Pakistan, and Lesotho.
Her work in Sierra Leone remains very vibrant today, Betancourt said, with an emphasis on mental health services research and collaborations with development actors to test strategies for integrating evidence-based mental health interventions with youth entrepreneurship programs. A book recounting the experiences of Betancourt and her colleagues in Sierra Leone carrying out the 17- year study is also underway.
“As a faculty member from a school of social work, I appreciated having a forum in which to talk about my work, given that several health professions—pediatrics, psychiatry, psychology, among others—were represented at the conference,” said Betancourt, noting that ISSOP is preparing a statement summarizing key points from the Beirut meeting. “An interdisciplinary response is sorely needed to deal with the intergenerational challenges that result from war and other situations of violence globally.”
Sean Smith | University Communications | October 2019