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As a part of WSU Extension, the Child and Family Research Unit (CAFRU) works with community allies to promote health and wellness for underserved and at-risk populations through research, community development, and education.

While we work with a range of challenges facing families and communities, our principal focus is on working with community systems to address the public health challenge of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and resulting trauma. Specifically, we focus on how systems help individuals of all ages build resilience and recover from adversity.

Understanding that high levels of ACE exposure in the general population is common, we have found addressing trauma from ACEs to be a powerful strategy that can improve services in any system with the mission of supporting health and wellbeing in children and adults.

We have developed an extensive body of work addressing the public health consequences of complex trauma, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and resulting trauma. Our work in developing models to address trauma is focused on the successes of children, families, and community programs confronted by adversity.

Research & Evaluation

A primary focus of CAFRU is research and evaluation of programs that counter the impact of complex trauma on individuals, families, systems, and communities. CAFRU faculty and staff conduct research to:

  • Foster long-term success in early learning and K–12 education, primary health care, and other natural systems,
  • Build understanding of the lasting effects of traumatic childhood experiences.

Community Development & Capacity Building

CAFRU is actively involved in helping communities develop their capacity to provide supportive services to their residents—especially those who are underserved and/or at risk. CAFRU works to:

  • Build strong, supportive community systems, and
  • Develop relationships with community leaders and stakeholders to improve existing programs, especially those addressing issues surrounding at-risk youth, families, and K–12 capacity-building.

Education & Training

Since 2008, CAFRU faculty and staff have delivered complex trauma training to more than 30,000 professionals including those in the K-12 education system, early learning, juvenile justice, social work, mental health, primary health care, and community members in Washington, Oregon, and California. CAFRU is committed to equipping people in universal systems with awareness of complex trauma as a major health issue and with the skills to proactively respond.Enhancing professional development opportunities for community leaders around the topic of complex trauma is a key mission of CAFRU. Specifically, CAFRU works to:

  • Offer continuing education for community leaders including but not limited to health care providers and educators, and
  • Train community leaders on how to deal with childhood trauma and behavioral health challenges.

Child and Family Research Unit logo.412 E. Spokane Falls Blvd., Spokane, WA 99202 | 509-358-7640 | Contact Us