April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month—it's a time to reflect on the importance of communities and agencies working together to prevent and address child abuse and neglect. Mount Nittany Health's Children's Advocacy Center (CAC) is at the forefront of this work, led by Diana McWilliams, newly appointed Executive Director.
The CAC coordinates the response to child abuse cases with law enforcement, child protective workers, medical experts, and other social services agencies. The CAC's role is to reduce the number of times (and the way) a child is interviewed about the alleged abuse, provide a medical exam by a specially trained pediatrician and connect them and their caregiver to supportive services.
"We conduct forensic interviews with children. This is a very structured interviewing process using national protocols," says Diana. "The interviews are recorded to be used as evidence in prosecuting the perpetrator. Medical exams are like a well-child visit, and often provide the child and caregiver with needed reassurance or medical information."
Our facility provides a cross-sector team approach to managing each case with open communication and information sharing. It is intended to place the child and the child's welfare at the forefront of all decision making while ensuring that the child and family are connected with the necessary support services.
Anne Ard, executive director, Centre Safe, a key CAC partner, shares, "Our collaboration with the CAC means that families who are experiencing one of the worst things that can happen—child abuse—will have support and care from a trained Victim Advocate all the way through the judicial process.
Non-offending caregivers and kids will have someone to talk to who can help them understand the complexities of the legal system and who will connect them with appropriate resources from the minute they walk through the door for a forensic interview until the process is complete and beyond. Working as a team and in partnership with the CAC means that families never have to face the crisis of child abuse alone."
Throughout the CAC's existence, Mount Nittany Health Foundation donors have provided vital funding to underwrite the critical services offered by the CAC. Further, charitable contributions also enable CAC staff to invest in technology, training, and programming to remain at the forefront of trauma-informed care and best practices. An updated smartboard was recently purchased with donor dollars to improve interaction and recording during forensic interviews.
"The support of donors, not only to underwrite our critical work but allowing us to invest in technology and program advancement, is a profound benefit. I want every donor to know that their contribution makes a huge difference," shares Diana.
To learn more about the CAC and how your gifts can make a difference visit foundation.mountnittany.org or call 814.234.6777.