Children's Advocacy Center of Erie County
Children's Advocacy Centerof Erie County
2005 West 8th Street
Erie, PA 16412
Children exposed to violence (defined as physically or sexually abused; a witness to domestic violence; or exposed to any violent crime)
Something is wrong with Maria's 7-year-old daughter Hannah.
The normally outgoing and friendly little girl has become sullen and withdrawn. Her teacher reports that the first grader is missing assignments and not paying attention in class.
Maria, 26, looks for a cause. Her boyfriend, Hector, recently moved in with her, and she worries that Hannah might feel jealous so she sits her daughter down for a heart-to-heart talk. At first, Hannah refuses to say anything, but when Maria presses the issue she learns a terrible secret: Hector has been sexually abusing Hannah for nearly three weeks.
Maria feels her world collapsing around her. Numb, she calls the police, who take her and Hannah to the Erie County Children's Advocacy Center (CAC).
Maria doesn't know it yet, but CAC will give her and her daughter a nurturing new start.
After CAC's forensic team has gathered the facts of the abuse, the Safe Start manager invites Maria to bring Hannah back for further assessment and specialized interventions to address issues related to her exposure to violence.
Specialized services include in-home therapy designed to help Hannah—and her mother—recover from the effects of the sexual abuse through conversations, play therapy, and safety training.
Maria also joins a parent group that meets for 12 weeks to discuss the effects of violence as well as other real-life issues, such as how to have a social life and a safe and stable home. Later, the parents and children come together, engaging in joint activities designed to develop honest communication. All the while, an integrated team meets regularly to discuss Maria and Hannah's progress and link them to other support services. When the in-home therapy ends, the team continues to follow Maria and Hannah's progress for two years, providing additional support as needed.
Over time, mother and child rebuild the feelings of safety and trust that had been shattered.
Developmental screening: The CAC pediatrician and case manager provide screening and in-depth assessment of children exposed to violence to determine areas of risk, guide appropriate treatment, and oversee the referral process.
Children's Advocacy Center: Staff representing multiple systems of care provide an integrated program to children who have been exposed to violence. The integrated treatment program includes case management and parenting education as well as child, parent, and family mental health interventions.
Case management: A team of providers develops safety plans and provides support and crisis management services. The team also links families to early intervention, provides support and crisis counseling, assists with court-related activities, and offers mental health services. This team of providers meets weekly to review each family's progress.
Parenting education: Parents complete a psycho-educational course consisting of weekly 90-minute sessions lasting 12 weeks. The goals of these psycho-educational groups are to expand parent knowledge, improve parent-child bonding, and provide child management and child protection skills.
Child, parent, and family mental health interventions: The program provides mental health interventions based on the needs of the family during 16 in-office, in-home, or at-daycare visits. Child-focused interventions concentrate on reducing the impact of exposure to violence. The interventions follow a parent-child dyadic model with infants to re-establish bonding and use play therapy and expressive art approaches with children from 2 to 12 years of age. Mental health interventions with mothers focus on identifying and addressing the dynamics and behaviors set into motion by exposure to violence and seek to address those issues that continue to leave the child at risk. Family therapy is used to address issues such as blaming the child for the loss of a home or family, divided loyalties among siblings, and difficulty in managing child behavior.