By Avra Sullivan
It is said that the best way to bring a child up is to never let them down. Too many children are let down, often by people they know, love and should be able to trust. Child abuse, emotional, physical and sexual, has become an epidemic in recent years. The abuse is only the beginning of the trauma for a child. Once an incident is reported, the child, often too young to truly understand what has happened, must re-live the event by telling the story countless times to police, lawyers, therapists and social workers. With each retelling, the effects of the abuse can become more embedded in the child’s psyche.
The Queen Anne’s County Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Center (CARE) works to limit the trauma for children who are victims of abuse. CARE opened in 2006 as a multidimensional partnership between the Queen Anne’s County Department of Social Services, State’s Attorney’s Office, Office of the Sheriff, Maryland State Police and Mid-Shore Medical Program. This collaboration focuses primarily on therapy for the child and using a technique called forensic interviewing for gathering information. The child is interviewed by one person while other members of the team observe. The session is videotaped, and the recording is referred to during court proceedings and throughout the investigation rather than having the child re-live the ordeal through re-telling of the events.
Patricia Melcer, CARE Coordinator talks about the importance of limiting this trauma and the role therapy can play. “Research has shown that the outcome and healing process for child victims of abuse is so much better if the child is started in therapy ASAP.” CARE has highly trained therapists who specialize in the treatment of child abuse by incorporating play therapy, art therapy, and one-on-one sessions. Ms. Melcer goes on to explain that while many children do not disclose abuse for years, research has shown that very rarely are these children lying. This can begin a cycle of abuse by an abuser. “It is not uncommon,” Patricia says “in the case where the offender is a juvenile, to discover that they themselves have been victims of abuse.”
The CARE Center also helps the victim’s family by making available a care group for parents and financial support when necessary, particularly in the instance where the offender is the main bread winner. Since its inception, the CARE Center has helped over 50 families in this area. Wanting to proactively prevent child abuse and to help identify when abuse is occurring, team members speak to community groups and partner with local schools to teach children and parents about who, how and why it is critical to tell someone if abuse is occurring. “If we can increase awareness for parents…that is what is going to really help,” says Patricia.
On November 7, 2012, the CARE center will host Sweet Arts, a fundraising event at Symphony Village in Centreville. The event will include a dessert extravaganza and silent auction, and all proceeds will go to fund trauma mental health therapy for child victims. For more information or to purchase tickets please call 410-758-8056 or visit their website at www.qaccare.org.