April 4, 2014

Children's Advocacy Center staffChild abuse is a sensative subject many would rather not talk about. However, child abuse does happen. Statistics show that one in four girls and one in six boys will have at least one occurrence of sexual abuse by the age of 18.

The Children's Advocacy Center on the campus of CAMC Women and Children's Hospital is a place that provides professional and compassionate care to children and families to reduce the trauma for children who have been possible victims of child abuse.

"We are kind of a one stop shop for the evaluation and treatment of children who are believed to have been abused," said Maureen Runyon, MSW, coordinator of the Children's Advocacy Center. "Most of what we see, probably 95 percent, is child sexual abuse. However, we do evaluate children for severe physical abuse and other types of maltreatment."

The center has trained specialists who interview children using proper techniques and pediatricians who are child abuse specialists.

"Instead of taking them to a police station (which can be intimidating), to the county department of health and human resource offices and to an emergency room, you bring them here where we can coordinate all of their care and services and do everything, ideally, in one visit," Runyon said.

The center also has a trained staff member ASA family advocate. The family advocate meets with the family, assesses its needs and provides access to resources and counseling services in the community for the child, as well as the family.

In the calendar year of 2013, the Children's Advocacy Center saw 412 children. Although the Children's Advocacy Center is in the Kanawha area, the center sees children from 25 to 30 different counties in the state.

In April, the center participates in Pinwheels for Prevention to raise awareness about child abuse. Pinwheels for Prevention is a national public service campaign that all child advocacy centers and children's agencies support all over the country.

"The pinwheel represents child abuse prevention, and in front of Women and Children's Hospital we always have a pinwheel garden where the grassy area is filled with pinwheels," Runyon said.

Inside the hospital during the same time, each department is given pinwheels and educational materials to give children and families. "It's not uncommon to just walk through the hospital in April and see children walking down the hallway blowing a little pinwheel that they've been given."

The last couple of years the Children's Advocacy Center has expanded the concept of the pinwheels and educational material beyond just the hospital to day care centers, churches and businesses.

"Since we are a part of the west side community, we have a particular focus there to provide educational materials and pinwheels to businesses that are willing to give those to children and families that come through their doors during the month of April," Runyon said.

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