The Atlas Project

The Atlas Project, which is funded through the Administration for Children, Youth and Families, aims to make changes to New York State’s child welfare system that improve the social and emotional well-being of children by applying a trauma lens across systems. The Atlas Project is bringing foster care and mental health agencies together to share information and better coordinate services. Whenever possible and applicable, foster care and mental health staff are trained together to improve communication and ensure consistency in service planning.

Our work is starting with agencies in the Bronx and Ulster County, where we will have the opportunity to learn from our experiences before expanding to other areas of the city and state. The Atlas Project’s key activities include the following:

  • Providing integrated, trauma-focused mental health treatment. Trauma Systems Therapy (TST) is a comprehensive method for assessing and treating children with traumatic stress. TST addresses both a child’s ability to regulate his or her emotional states when triggered by reminders or stressors, and the social environment’s ability to protect the child from these reminders/stressors and/or help the child to regulate his or her emotions in the face of them. It is also critical that the trauma-related needs of other stakeholders – including caretakers and staff – are addressed as part of service provision. TST is a phase-based model that is delivered through multi-disciplinary teams, which helps ensure that services are coordinated and information is shared among providers.
  • Monitoring the use of psychotropic medication. Children in foster care are more likely to be prescribed psychotropic medication than other children receiving Medicaid-funded services. As part of our work, we will develop mechanisms for better tracking the use of psychotropic medication and gather information about whether trauma-focused interventions can decrease the use of such medications.
  • Ensuring youth and family involvement in service development and delivery. Practice or service changes will only be effective if they meet the needs of children and families. We are working with our partners to ensure that youth and family members are included in as many of our project activities as possible, during the planning process, in training, and when services are being implemented and evaluated.
  • Evaluating outcomes for individual children and the effectiveness of our system change process. Our evaluation work includes both an implementation study, which will allow us to examine the process of implementing the Atlas Project’s various components and learn about which strategies were most effective, and an outcome study, which will allow us to look at improvements in children’s mental health and child welfare outcomes. We will also be looking at cost data, and conducting smaller studies on certain program elements.