Burke Baird

Division of Child Maltreatment

Message from Division Head, Burke Baird

Understanding the impact on children of the emotional trauma caused by family violence, and that such harm can be mitigated or prevented, motivates the clinical, educational and research activities of the Division of Child Maltreatment. Our faculty are actively engaged in training, research, and leadership at McMaster Children’s Hospital, McMaster University and at the community, provincial, national, and international levels. 

Division members work within McMaster Children's Hospital's child advocacy and assessment program (CAAP) that focuses on family violence relating to child maltreatment, including intimate partner violence. Clinically, the team uses each encounter to evaluate, not only whether maltreatment has occurred, but what the impact of the child's lived experience of family violence has had upon them. This focus on impact and the integration of assessment and intervention makes CAAP a model for other programs to emulate. 

The team continues to respond to new types and sources of requests for consultation, assistance, and education and is eager to share its knowledge and expertise with providers seeking to enhance the care of children and families affected by family violence and child maltreatment. 


The integration of McMaster Children's Hospital's child advocacy and assessment program’s assessment and intervention services requires, and is informed by, a close-knit, egalitarian approach to team dynamics and function. We adopt a genuinely collaborative framework where medical and non-medical team members all contribute to case formulation and recommendations for intervention. This approach also allows team members to support each other and to effectively share and defuse the emotional impact of this challenging work. 

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Placeholder portrait image for Liz Merz

Liz Merz

Divisional Assistant



Our work sparks interest in learning about family violence amongst trainees from numerous disciplines including pediatrics, psychiatry, family practice, psychology, child life, social work, as well as those involved in undergraduate health sciences education. We have developed an innovative and highly regarded approach to educating trainees about these difficult topics resulting in multiple awards for the rotation and faculty. The educational program is comprised of formal and informal 1:1 case-based teaching sessions, online modules and frequent, direct observation of trainees completing clinical assessments followed by direct feedback from faculty. Plans are underway to develop simulation modules to supplement this already robust curriculum. 


Our work has established McMaster Children's Hospital as a regional centre of dependability and excellence in evaluating and assisting families when concerns of child maltreatment have arisen. Team members are regularly consulted by care providers within the hospital's emergency department, mental health unit, inpatient medical units and outpatient clinics about concerns ranging from physical abuse to medical and other forms of neglect to caregiver fabricated illness to complex child protection agency concerns. In the outpatient setting, the multi-disciplinary team assesses hundreds of children and families each year, most of whom have been referred directly from child protection agencies.

Due to the profound adverse impact of exposure to family violence on the development and emotional well-being of children, the team has established direct clinical and educational linkages with the Ron Joyce Children's Health Centre. Our faculty members bring an evidence-based, trauma-informed approach to each consultation and actively promotes the application of this framework with partners throughout the region.


The Division of Child Maltreatment has a strong relationship with the Offord Centre for Child Studies through the family violence research program led by Harriet MacMillan. Among its many achievements, this program recently developed the VEGA (Violence, Evidence, Guidance, and Action) project, an online global resource for educating health-care and social service providers to recognize and safely respond to family violence. 

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