CSU represented on group tasked with making Colorado tops for children, families

A member of the CSU community has been named to an exclusive statewide group charged with making Colorado the nation’s best place to have a child and sustain a healthy, thriving family.

Stephanie Seng, director of the Center for Family and Couple Therapy and the Child Trauma and Resilience Assessment Center (CTRAC), has been named to the Aspen Institute’s Colorado Children and Families Health and Human Services Fellowship, the first of its kind in the country.

Stephanie Sang

“This investment in leaders in rural and urban counties across the state is a smart way to strengthen the systems that serve our communities,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “We look forward to seeing the impact this inaugural class will have on Colorado children and families.”

The Aspen Institute announced the inaugural class of the fellowship on May 16 in Washington, D.C. Seng was among 20 fellows chosen by Ascend, a policy program of the Aspen Institute created in 2010 to secure economic security and educational success for future generations.

CTRAC’s focus

CTRAC, which is partially staffed by CSU graduate students, provides extensive assessments and recommendations for children across the state who have experienced complex trauma, from physical/mental abuse to exposure to things like violence or substance abuse. The center has gained visibility of late due to its work with the Larimer County Department of Human Services on a trauma-informed assessment model for youths that is being replicated beyond Northern Colorado. That model corresponds well with the “systems theory” training that is the foundation of CSU’s Marriage and Family Therapy program and involves looking at the whole system surrounding the youth, including family, friends and professionals such as caseworkers, therapists, probation officers and mentors.

“CTRAC and its partnership with Larimer County has been so impactful – we are working to train others across the county, state and nation in order to support healing at the family level and work toward the prevention of future maltreatment,” Seng said. “Our experience has taught us that, more often than not, trauma is an intergenerational experience, and a key factor in successful treatment is including the family.”

Seng is in good company. Other fellows named by the Aspen Institute include directors of state, county and municipal health and human services departments around Colorado, as well as top officials from organizations like the Denver Public Schools Foundation, The Bell Policy Center and the Colorado Children’s Campaign.

“I’m honored to be included in this inaugural group of fellows,” Seng said. “I have already learned so much from the extensive experience and expertise they bring to the group and look forward to sharing what we’ve learned as we continue to develop our comprehensive trauma-informed care model.”

18-month commitment

Fellows participate in four forums and receive interim check-ins and technical assistance over a year and a half. They will develop an individual or collaborative action plan that furthers their existing work and goals. Seng said the first forum, held May 23-26 in Aspen, was an introduction that featured text-based dialogue of assigned writings on leadership.

“For me, it was very interesting,” Seng said. “I appreciated the opportunity to get to know the other members of my cohort beyond their job titles, to see their passions for the work they do and to have the opportunity to discuss and debate, in depth, the challenges and opportunities facing families in Colorado. “

“It is a privilege to bring the Aspen Institute’s values-based leadership approach back to its roots in Colorado, where it all started,” Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson said of the new fellowship program, which is making its national debut in Colorado. “More importantly, this fellowship is a critical investment in advancing opportunity and equality in America for the children and families who need it the most.”

“The Colorado Children and Families Fellows are diverse, entrepreneurial leaders implementing bold ideas to change the lives of young children and their families throughout Colorado,” said Anne Mosle, executive director of Ascend at the Aspen Institute. “Too many families are struggling; the Aspen Institute is committed to ensuring that all children have the chance to reach their full potential.”

About the organizations

CSU’s Center for Family and Couple Therapy provides services to families, couples, individuals, adolescents and children. The center created the Child Trauma and Resilience Assessment Center to provide trauma-informed care practices in the county and help support healing at the family level. The center hopes to build a greater understanding in how trauma impacts families through treatment, training and advocacy. It is based in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, which is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. It has campuses in Aspen, Colorado, and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.