Author: Kerri Kubalak
Organization: Mount Nittany Health
Did you know that more than one in 10 children in our community will experience child abuse before their 18th birthday? Our region is fortunate to have a resource to help children reporting abuse – the Mount Nittany Health Children's Advocacy Center of Centre County (CAC). The CAC is one of 42 advocacy centers nationally that provide child-centered advocacy for children and their families dealing with complex and traumatic situations.
The mission of the CAC is to meet the needs of the children and families in our community by providing a community-based, child-focused center that facilitates a compassionate, multidisciplinary approach to the prevention, identification, intervention, and treatment of child abuse.
The CAC fulfills its mission by offering evidence-based forensic interviewing, medical examinations, coordinating case tracking, and expert witness testimony in child abuse cases. In addition, the CAC staff has trained more than 100 area police officers on how to sensitively and effectively interview children who are witnesses to a crime.
The CAC is a safe and comfortable place where children come to talk with a specially trained interviewer about possible abuse or crimes they may have experienced or witnessed. In addition, two specially-trained pediatricians examine victims of child abuse in a safe manner that does not re-traumatize the child. They are available four days a week for exams.
The CAC receives referrals from child protective services or law enforcement if there is concern that a child is a victim or witness of a crime. A visit to the CAC allows the child to talk about their experience in a child-friendly, safe, and comfortable setting.
The CAC works with organizations, school districts, preschools, and other organizations that provide direct service to children and youth to understand the signs and warnings of possible child abuse. They also advise what to do when a child discloses possible abuse.
"Providing a safe place for children to turn if they are being harmed has an impact that can last a lifetime," said Diana McWilliams, Executive Director, Children's Advocacy Center of Centre County. "Research and experience show that, without intervention, they will suffer
lifelong physical, psychological, social, and economic consequences."
Since opening its doors in 2014, the CAC has assisted over 2,700 children and serves four counties. As a non-profit organization, all services are offered to victims and their families at no charge. No child is turned away from the CAC.
For more information about the Mount Nittany Health Children's Advocacy Center, visit mountnittany.org/childadvocacycenter or contact Diana McWilliams at Diana.McWilliams@mountnittany.org.