2017-04-02 / Insight

Joining together can help keep children safe

HEATHER FRAYER HEATHER FRAYER Editor’s note: The following guest column was written by Heather Frayer, the executive director of the Child Advocacy Center of Lapeer County. She’s been with the center since it opened in 2009, and she’s been director since January of 2016. O ne in four children will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18. As Child Abuse Prevention Month begins, the Child Advocacy Center of Lapeer County (CAC Lapeer) is aiming to lower that number.

This April’s child abuse prevention initiative is a reminder that we all play a part in keeping children safe by providing the necessary support to help families stay together and by raising children to be happy, secure and stable adults.”

It is important for adults to learn how to identify situations where children are potentially at risk. Every program and every organization that interacts with children should have policies that help guide what is appropriate interaction.

While children should be aware of their surroundings, adults must also take the necessary steps to ensure no child experiences abuse. These include introducing boundaries and empowering them through clear communication.

It’s very important if someone does have concerns that a child may be being abused, to act on those concerns, to report it to appropriate agencies, Child Protective Services (CPS) or Law Enforcement, so that the concerns can be investigated. My advice that could be life-changing for a child: if you see something, say something!

The Child Advocacy Center of Lapeer County, provides forensic interviews to children of alleged sexual or severe physical abuse and medicals to both children and adults of alleged sexual or severe physical abuse. To reduce trauma to children during the investigative process CAC Lapeer works with a multidisciplinary team (MDT) that works together to ensure the most effective, coordinated response is obtained for every child and family. Members of the MDT include law enforcement, CPS, Lapeer County Prosecutors Office and medical professionals.

Since CAC Lapeer first opened its doors in 2008, it has grown tremendously. Over the last nine years, CAC Lapeer has provided more than 1,000 forensic interviews and more than 500 medicals to Lapeer County. Within the last year, the CAC team has grown with five new positions which has allowed CAC Lapeer to further its services to families. With these new positions and the help of the CAC’s multidisciplinary team, CAC Lapeer has already provided more than 40 forensic interviews just in 2017. They have also expanded their services to include a counseling program for the child victims and their families.

Since the addition of the counseling program, CAC Lapeer has had the ability to provide immediate follow-up crisis support to the parents of children being interviewed, and has been able to offer counseling to over half of the victims who are not already in outpatient services. The center has also extended its program to include services for parents and siblings. All of this is provided free to our families who come through our doors.

In honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month, The Child Advocacy Center of Lapeer County will be holding a pinwheel garden planting day at the Lapeer ELGA Credit Union, April 7 at 11 a.m. Show your support by dressing in blue and coming out and plant a pinwheel. The pinwheel is the nationally recognized symbol for child abuse and neglect prevention. It also symbolizes the belief that every child has the right to grow and flourish to his/her full potential within a nurturing environment.

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