The Center for Healthy Development (CHD) was established in August 2008 to house the Center for Leadership in Disability (CLD), a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, and the National SafeCare® Training and Research Center (NSTRC). In 2011, Prevent Child Abuse Georgia, a state chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, was added.  CHD is directed by Dr. John R. Lutzker, a Distinguished University Professor and Associate Dean for Faculty Development in the School of Public Health (SPH) and internationally recognized scholar and leader in child maltreatment prevention and intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Center for Healthy Development is committed to promoting the health, safety, well-being, and contributions of children, adults, and families through research, service, education, training, and advocacy. In fulfilling this mission, CHD emphasizes translational and implementation research that brings scientific innovations into the everyday practices and policies that directly impact people’s lives and the health of communities. CHD’s multi-faceted work is centered on the prevention and treatment of child maltreatment, reduction in family violence, and improvements in the lives of persons with disabilities and their families.

The mission of the CHD is to promote the health, safety, well-being, and quality of life of children, adults, and families with and without disabilities through research, service, advocacy, and to prevent child maltreatment.  In fulfilling its mission, the CHD seeks to:

  • bring research to practice in the prevention of child maltreatment and in the broad field of intellectual and developmental disabilities,
  • influence policy in child maltreatment prevention and intellectual and developmental disabilities,
  • enhance evidence-based child maltreatment programs,
  • provide interdisciplinary preservice education in intellectual/developmental disabilities and child maltreatment prevention,
  • disseminate best practices information in child maltreatment prevention and intellectual/developmental disabilities,
  • offer undergraduate and graduate interdisciplinary courses and training in intellectual/developmental disabilities and child maltreatment prevention,
  • bring together scholars of evidence-based practices (EBP) and find ways to incorporate elements of various EBP with each other,
  • offer a network of agencies to prevent child abuse and neglect,
  • and advance translational research in child maltreatment and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Since moving to Georgia State University (GSU), the CHD has garnered a number of research grants. One such example involved bringing research to practice through studying the statewide implementation of the evidence-based SafeCare model in Georgia, and subcontracts to study implementation in two large SafeCare projects in California. CLD has participated in statewide education and advocacy efforts on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families; taught classes in child maltreatment and developmental disabilities; brought faculty together from colleges at GSU to identify common interests and commitments to systems change and improvement, including explorations with faculty from the Colleges of Education, Arts and Sciences, and Law, and the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies; published chapters and journal articles; planned and sponsored local, state-level, and national conferences.

The Center for Leadership in Disabilities is funded by a number of sources including the UCEDD grant from the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD) of the Administration on Community Living (ACL). The National SafeCare® Training and Research Center was created in 2007 with a center grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and has since received funding from a number of private and public service research grants and contracts. Prevent Child Abuse Georgia is funded by a grant from the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, and other sources.

The Work of CHD

The Center for Healthy Development is a multi-disciplinary organization within the School of Public Health (SPH) that is continuously engaged in collaborative projects involving researchers throughout GSU and other institutions, within the Atlanta area in particular, as well as nationally and internationally. The collective and independent efforts of CLD, NSTRC, and PCA are a testament to the dedication each Center has to fulfilling the mission of CHD. The broad reach of the Center, along with the component centers of CLD, NSTRC, and PCA, speaks to the tremendous efforts toward achieving significant social impact in the areas of health, safety, and well-being of children, adults, and families. As such, the primary research goals of CHD include improving service delivery, reducing disparities, enhancing systemic and workforce capacities, and evaluating quality of life for individuals and families. The CHD as a center offers the visibility and structure to support the component centers in a way that maximizes optimal outcomes for the children and adults served through the Center for Leadership in Disability, the National SafeCare Training and Research Center, and Prevent Child Abuse Georgia.

The CLD has the mission of serving unserved and underserved individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities and their families.  This is the first overarching reason for the CHD – to bring evidence-based practices to those who need them most. The CLD has the mission of building state and national level capacity to improve systems of support and service for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities and their families.  Each center strives to assure that sustainable evidence-based practices reach populations in need through the development of effective and responsive systems, training and technical assistance to ensure quality, public policies that support innovation, and ongoing evaluation and research.  

The NSTRC provides training and implementation support for the SafeCare® model to practitioners in public health and child welfare agencies that work with families to prevent child maltreatment. SafeCare® is being replicated by researchers nationwide and internationally. The NSTRC receives frequent inquiries for training and technical assistance. The CLD is a part of a network of 67 federally funded university Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. CHD offers a home for these two highly visible efforts. Further, the NSTRC and the CLD are inextricably linked. Without the CHD there would not be one unifying umbrella for these efforts.

Prevent Child Abuse Georgia’s mission is to provide statewide direction to promote healthy children and develop strong families through networking, public awareness, prevention programs, research, and advocacy. Through its work, PCA supports a statewide network of individuals, families, agencies, and communities dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect. Its 1-800 helpline serves as a resource for parents, teachers, community members, and the broader child welfare advocacy community.

Children with substantiated abuse and neglect have far poorer developmental
outcomes than their peers, are less likely to have their developmental needs identified, and too frequently do not receive the interventions they need.  Their parents also face a range of challenges, and many experience disabilities themselves.  These families clearly represent an at risk population that has historically been underserved. The collective work of CHD targets an array of challenges in an effort to improve the lives of children and families.