BROOKVILLE — Last Friday, the Jefferson County Commissioners proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Pat Berger, executive director and forensic interviewer for Western PA CARES for Kids, said she appreciated the month-long recognition, but reminds county residents that child abuse occurs every day.
“I think it’s important that we as a community are watching out for children and are aware that it’s happening all the time,” she said.
Western PA CARES for Kids is Jefferson County’s own child advocacy center, where children who may have experienced either physical or sexual abuse, or children who were witnesses to a violent crime, are interviewed once by a trained forensic interviewer with nationally-accredited training, while the investigative team watches the interview on a monitor.
This eliminates the need for each member of the investigative team to perform a separate interview, which reduces the trauma and enhances the physical, emotional and psychological safety of the child.
CARES has served more than 225 children since it opened its doors in May 2008, Berger said.
Of those children, 176 were abused by family members and caregivers.
“When it comes to the safety of your children, no one should be beyond suspicion,” Berger said.
Last Friday, she reported on the following ways to minimize the opportunity for child abuse:
• Minimize one-adult, one-child situations. If your child is to be in a situation such as this, stop in unexpectedly.
• Develop positive, open communication with your children. Talk to them about their day, friends, feelings and concerns. When children talk, adults should listen and be supportive.
• Teach children that secrets about touching and being touched are not safe secrets to keep.
• In the event that parents or caregivers are not around, they should help their children to identify adults they can trust when they need help.
• Know your child’s friends and the parents of those friends. Work with your neighbors to establish a safe house where children can go if they are scared.
Berger said county residents should call the Child Line at 1-800-932-0313 if child abuse is suspected. Furthermore, she said abuse assessment should be left to the professionals and parents and/or caregivers do not need to be positive that child abuse occurred.
For more information about Western PA CARES for Kids call 814-849-1904 or visit www.carescac.org .