This past year has been tough on kids and Best Self Health Behavioral can help. No child should be abused for any reason and at the Child Advocacy Center at Best Self, Rebecca Stevens offers some help for National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Rebecca Stevens, director, Child Advocacy Center Bestself Behavioral Health says at the Child Advocacy Center in Erie County they provide a multi-disciplinary response to cases of child sexual abuse and child physical abuse. Rebecca Stevens says they bring all of their local partners in, Child Protective Services, Oshei Children’s Hospital, all local law enforcement, the DSS office of council, the District Attorney’s office; all of these providers including our mental health providers at Best Self come to their agency and they wrap their services around the child in one location where the child can tell their story one time to this entire group of professionals and not have to retell their story over and over again and each time reliving that fear, trauma and pain. She goes on to say in Erie County they estimate that they see 3,000 cases of child abuse that are reported of child abuse a year. Erie County is the second highest reported county in New York State for child abuse cases. At the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) they see about 1,100 children each year. She says they know they are not seeing all the children who need the help and therefore there are cases going unreported and those children are living in silence and fear.
The largest amount of people who make reports are teachers followed by medical providers and with COVID kids haven’t had the face-to-face interactions with teachers or medical providers that would usually. Most signs of child abuse are not physical, they aren’t bruises and injuries, they are more likely behavioral changes where a child who was once very happy and outgoing is now withdrawn. So, teachers who get to know the personalities of the children face to face are the ones that are likely to identify a problem is happening.
In order to have a happy and healthy community, children need to be safe and happy and healthy, so if you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, it is really important that you get the authorities involved so they can investigate to see if that child needs help. Calling the Child Protective Help Line in New York State can be done anonymously. You can make a simple phone call by dialing 1-800-342-3720 and just let them know you suspect something is happening. You don’t need proof you just need a suspicion.
Could I be doing more harm than good if I am wrong? Rebecca Stevens says within 24 hours of that call being made if Child Protection believes your suspicion is worth an investigation, a CPS worker goes to the home, they make a phone call, and if they determine, that everything in the house seems right, the case is closed and everybody goes on their way. There are no negative consequences. If you see something, say something.