National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

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NAASCA Highlights

EDITOR'S NOTE: Occasionally we bring you articles from local newspapers, web sites and other sources that constitute but a small percentage of the information available to those who are interested in the issues of child abuse and recovery from it.

We also present original articles we hope will inform the community ...
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  Child abuse at the lake - part 11 in a series:

Introducing Kids' Harbor

by Cara Gerdiman
LakeNewsOnline.com

Mar 26, 2012

Osage Beach, Mo. Ten years ago, Kids' Harbor, Inc. became a reality for Dr. Samuel "Buddy" Brayfield and a group of concerned citizens who together formed the initial board of directors for the agency.

We started small in a little office space in Camdenton.

The services consisted of forensic interviews which are neutral fact finding interviews conducted by a specially trained interviewer, Sexual Assault Forensic Examinations (S.A.F.E.) and Child at Risk Evaluations (C.A.R.E.). We had two full time staff members and seven children were referred for services.

The concept for a Child Advocacy Center was a multi-discipline team approach to the investigation of child abuse.

Kids' Harbor would bring together law enforcement, Children's Division, the Juvenile Office, prosecution, medical and mental health providers to conduct a simultaneous investigation together rather than each agency conducting their own separate investigation in which information was not always shared between agencies. Forensic interviews would be conducted by a trained, neutral interviewer while other team members observed through closed circuit television thereby reducing the number of interviews and trauma experienced by the child. Medical exams would be conducted by specially trained medical personnel. Child victims and non-offending family members would have a consistent familiar face in the advocate assigned to their case.

During the course of the last ten years, staff members have changed and grown to five full time employees, three part time employees and four contracted medical providers. We responded to the growing need of the St. Robert/Fort Leonard Wood Community by opening a satellite center, Kids' Harbor, Too in St. Robert in 2005. With the addition of Kids' Harbor, Too, the cost and travel time for families to receive services was lessened. And in 2006, the Osage Beach facility opened; it was designed and built specifically for the needs of children referred.

Our services have expanded with the addition of a counseling and prevention program as well as a service dog.

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  Our counseling program provides counseling not only to children referred for services but also to non-offending caregivers and other children residing in the home. By providing services also to the non-offending caregivers and siblings, we hope children receive more support.

In 2010, Kids' Harbor had the opportunity to add a certified service dog, Ronny, to our staff. Ronny helps ease the stress and anxiety felt by children during forensic interviews, counseling sessions and during court testimony.

It is said that child sexual abuse seldom occurs in our society. However, research tells us that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Disclosure in these cases is typically delayed for six months or more. Recantation is common due to the stress and pressure put on these children.

Abuse is done in secret with threats to the child that by telling, the abuser will harm them or their pet or another loved one, the family will be torn apart, the child will be sent away, etc. Physical findings of sexual abuse are often non-existent due to the nature of the abuse and the delayed disclosure of children. In fact, in 95-98 percent of sexual abuse cases, the physical findings are normal.

Children are often abused by someone they know, love and trust, making reporting the problem even more difficult. They just want the abuse to stop, but by telling, they may fear the outcome would be worse than the abuse continuing.

Our goal at Kids' Harbor is that children will receive a fully staffed appointment within 24 hours of the referral for those children disclosing abuse that has occurred within the past 120 hours, complaining of pain, or whose safety requires immediate services. Typically these emergency referrals are seen for a fully staffed appointment within 30 minutes of the referral, no matter the time of day or night. Non-emergency referrals are seen for services at a minimum of within five business days but typically more quickly.

From the seven children initially referred in 2001 to the 643 children referred in 2011, the number of children referred to Kids' Harbor has increased each year of our existence, with the exception of one.

During the course of the past ten years, 3,770 children have been referred for services. In 2011, the agency conducted 160 medical exams at Kids' Harbor.

In addition to the number of exams conducted at Kids' Harbor, at times, exams are also conducted at Lake Regional Hospital and our advocates respond to provide support and advocacy to those children as well.

These numbers are staggering, but still don't tell the complete story of the number of children seen for services each year. Cases in which charges are filed may be open for many years before a final disposition is made. Kids' Harbor advocates continue to track these cases and offer services to the children and their non-offending family members. Once a child is referred for our services, we will continue to provide services until they are no longer needed.

Kids' Harbor could not continue to exist today without our very dedicated, professional staff who respond to calls not only during our regular business hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. but who also get called away from their time off to leave their own families to ensure that children and their non-offending caregivers receive the services they need in a timely manner. Our contracted medical providers do medical exams one day a week on their day off from their regular full-time employment.

Our three Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners also respond 24/7 when their services are needed.

Interestingly, there are only 12 Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners with pediatric certification in the State of Missouri. Kids' Harbor is proud to say we contract with three of those nurses, one of whom was named as the Forensic Nurse Examiner of the Year in 2010 by the Missouri Council of Emergency Nurses.

Unfortunately with only one counselor whose time is divided between our two offices and the ever increasing number of children referred, there are times we are unable to provide these much needed counseling services to our children and families in need.

The prevention program currently remains unfunded due to a lack of financial resources which would allow Kids' Harbor to offer this program to school age children in our community. The agency has been blessed by both support from the community and our multi-discipline team members.

Kids' Harbor, Inc. is a non-profit, 501c3 tax exempt organization. All donations are tax deductible and we are fortunate to be able to offer Children in Crisis Tax Credits to our donors. Without generous donors and volunteers, we could not continue to provide our services free of charge to children, ages 0-18, and their non-offending family members free of charge.

HOME
why we started this site
RECOVERY
together we can heal
RESOURCES
help stop child abuse
ABOUT
a little about us
CONTACT
join us, get involved