CHESTNUT HILL, Mass., Sept. 28, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Theresa S. Betancourt, whose groundbreaking research has laid bare the ravages of war on children, their families and communities, has joined Boston College’s School of Social Work as the inaugural Salem Professor in Global Practice, School of Social Work Dean Gautam Yadama announced today.

Betancourt joins Boston College from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where she spent 11 years as an assistant and associate professor of child health and human rights and directed the Research Program on Children and Global Adversity, studying the emotional trauma experienced by former child soldiers and examining how war-affected young men and woman can go on to live meaningful and productive lives.

"Professor Betancourt's research is truly global in scale, but focused on what matters most: the well-being of children, families and communities, particularly those devastated by the effects of war and conflict," said Yadama. "This combination of robust research and practice innovation will distinguish our social work program, and strengthen our ability to improve vulnerable lives through evidence-based interventions here at home and across the globe."

Betancourt’s research has taken place in Rwanda, Uganda, India, Ethiopia, the Russian Federation and Sierra Leone, where she has spent the past 15 years directing the intergenerational study of war-affected youth.

“Understanding the longer-term consequences of the direct and indirect effects of war is critical to designing strengths-based interventions to help young people and their families to thrive,” said Betancourt. “We aim to position our research at the crossroad of policy and evidence-based practices to both understand potential leverage points for change and then to use this knowledge to develop intervention models that can be feasible, effective and ultimately scalable and sustainable to assist children, youth and families facing adversity.”

Working from available evidence, Betancourt devised her own child protection framework, known as SAFE, which reflects the basic security needs and rights to promote child protection, specifically Safety from harm; Access to basic needs; Family; 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 and Lesotho.

As part of her more than $8.5 million in research funding, Betancourt serves as the principal investigator of a National Institutes of Mental Health-funded project to integrate evidence-based behavioral interventions for war-affected youth into employment initiatives in Sierra Leone; and as principal investigator for a NIMH-funded project to work to strengthen families for Somali Bantu and Bhutanese refugees in New England. 

The Salem Professorship in Global Practice was established through a major gift from Boston College Trustee Navyn Datoo Salem and her husband Paul J. Salem.

"Finding innovative ways to address global challenges is both a personal and a professional passion for me,” said Navyn Salem. “That is why Paul and I are so honored to establish the Salem Professorship in Global Practice at the School of Social Work, and to welcome Theresa Betancourt to the faculty. Our hope is that with her critical research and expertise, the School of Social Work will lead the way in offering substantive practical applications to ameliorate global challenges, particularly those that affect the most vulnerable members of our society. I can think of no better place to accomplish this goal than Boston College, which remains committed to helping all members of the human family to flourish.”