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MST-Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN)

MST-CAN works with everyone in the family

Multisystemic Therapy for Child Abuse and Neglect (MST-CAN) is an adaptation of MST that was developed to treat families who:

  • Have come to the attention of Child Protective Services due to physical abuse and/or neglect
  • Have a target child in the age range of 6 to 17
  • Have had a new report of abuse or neglect in the past 180 days

MST-CAN teams

MST-CAN works with families to keep children at home with increased safety. The focus is providing treatment to the whole family with special attention given to parents to overcome some of the challenges they face to parenting. It is very common for parents in MST-CAN programs to have experienced a traumatic event and treatment is provided to help overcome the impact of trauma.

In MST-CAN programs a great deal of safety planning is included in addition to treatment for anger management difficulties, parental or youth substance abuse, and family problem solving and communication problems.

The MST-CAN team delivers treatment in the family’s home at flexible times, with a 24/7 on call service to help the family manage crises after hours. Treatment lasts for 6 to 9 months.

Because of the complexity of the issues families face, in addition to master’s degreed therapists, a full-time crisis caseworker and a part-time psychiatrist with capacity to treat adults and children are added to the team.

MST-CAN Outcomes

MST-CAN: Breaking the cycle of abuse

In a five-year clinical trial, MST-CAN was proven to be more effective than enhanced outpatient treatment. Across 16 months, youth who received MST-CAN showed:

  • Significantly greater reductions in internalizing problems such as anxiety and dissociation, total behavior problems, and PTSD symptoms
  • Significantly fewer out-of-home placements
  • Significantly fewer changes in placement

Parents evidenced:

  • Significantly greater reductions in psychological distress
  • Significantly greater reductions in parenting problems such as neglectful parenting, minor and severe assault of the child, and psychological aggression
  • Significantly less decreases in non-violent discipline
  • Significantly greater increases in natural social support
  • Significantly greater treatment satisfaction

MST-CAN is rated as an evidence-based practice on the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare which reviews and rates child welfare related programs. MST-CAN is rated as a promising program by the Office of Justice Programs’ website that uses rigorous research to determine what works in criminal justice, juvenile justice, and crime victim services.

MST-BSF (Building Stronger Families) is a similar program that developed from the MST-CAN model that is currently being implemented in Connecticut. MST-BSF is a comprehensive treatment program for families who are experiencing co-occurring parental substance abuse and child maltreatment and who are involved in the child protective service system. MST-BSF utilizes a specialized version of the MST-CAN treatment model that includes a weekly Social Club component and an enhanced focus on substance abuse issues.

For additional information on MST-CAN implementation visit MST-CAN.