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UT psychiatrist wins Fulbright grant to study child abuse prevention in Netherlands

About 540 children are identified as victims of abuse or neglect each year in Lucas County.

“For every substantiated case of physical child abuse in the U.S., approximately 40 more exist that go undetected. It’s heartbreaking,” said Dr. Michele Knox, University of Toledo professor of psychiatry who has dedicated her life to protecting children and educating parents with alternative methods of discipline.

She recently was awarded her second Fulbright award to visit the Netherlands to find innovative and effective ways to improve child abuse prevention in the United States.

“I am honored to receive this award. It is an opportunity to bring home new ideas and approaches because the Netherlands is among the nations with the lowest rates of child maltreatment deaths,” Knox said. “I will be learning from the people there and benefiting from their expertise, knowledge and success.”

Starting in spring 2019, Knox will spend nearly three weeks at the University of Utrecht, the largest university in the Netherlands.

“This is a big change from my last Fulbright Specialist project, which was in northern Portugal,” Knox said. “I was teaching the Portuguese how to use evidence-based parenting group programs to prevent child abuse.”

The United States, Mexico and Portugal have “exceptionally” high rates of child maltreatment deaths, according to the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre.

For 16 years, Knox has been a master trainer for the American Psychological Association’s ACT (Adults and Children Together) Raising Safe Kids Program, which trains parents and caregivers in nonviolent discipline, child development, anger management and social problem-solving skills.

While in the Netherlands, Knox plans to teach college students and professionals about the ACT program and other topics related to child abuse and well-being.

Knox teaches medical students and residents at UT. She also is a clinical psychologist who specializes in children, adolescents and trauma; child abuse prevention; and parenting.

“Spanking is often the first step in the cycle of child abuse, and it can result in aggressive behavior and delinquency in kids,” Knox said. “I teach alternative methods of discipline for positive parenting solutions, such as the use of time-outs, removal of privileges, and positive reinforcement to reward the child’s good behavior.”

Her current research addresses factors related to harsh and abusive parenting, outcomes of child maltreatment prevention programs, and the efficacy of the Child Advocacy Studies Training program for medical students.

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