Please join us Friday, April 23, 2021 at 2 pm as we spotlight Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month and highlight the planted pinwheels around our service area. These pinwheels represent the children who received services from the South Central Child Advocacy Center.
Summer is starting to wind down, but the kiddos are still busy at summer camp. While we’d like to think these camps are creating a safe environment for our children, there are currently 18 states that do not require background checks for summer camp employees (Source: CBS News ). Interestingly, there are over 14 million summer camp attendees per year, yet there are no standardized regulations for overnight camp licensure or employee screening processes (Source: NY Post). Because of these inconsistencies, parents must not be afraid to ask questions before enrolling their children. See below for a list of questions to ask camp directors in order to help ensure child safety is of utmost priority:
Are criminal background checks, including sex offender registry, performed on ALL personnel? (The answer should be YES)
How many personal and/or professional references does the camp require, and how are they checked?
Do employees receive specific training related to child sexual abuse?
Under what circumstances are campers allowed to be alone with staff? (The answer should be NONE)
Who is responsible for enforcing all camp rules and regulations? And how accessible is this person should a problem arise?
If an overnight camp, how many staff per cabin? (Two or more is ideal!)
How and to whom do campers report that they feel emotionally or physically unsafe?
Ask these questions to help screen potential summer camps in order to find the best fit for your child. This peace of mind will lead to a safe, fun and memorable Summer 2019.
Grooming is the process that an individual may use to identify potential victims and gain their trust so that they may carry out a sexual act on the child (source: victimsofcrime.org). In the digital age, grooming may occur online via social media, messaging apps, or video game portals.
Individuals with this type of behavior may extend to different adults in the child’s life including parents/step-parents, coaches, close friends, school personnel and other trusted community members. This individual, as a trusted adult, will use this type of relationship to approach children and act in sexually inappropriate ways. Often times, this individual will emphasize the importance of secrecy to minimize the potential for the child to disclose the abuse. Grooming can occur both in-person and via the internet. These individuals will build relationships with children to make them feel safe. These relationships online can be even more difficult for parents to monitor.
The internet is a platform that can be easily used to create these trusted relationships. Monitoring children’s usage on who they’re talking to and what they are talking about is key to keeping them safe. Some strategies to help monitor these interactions can include: keeping the computer/tablets in a communal space, and/or utilizing online parental monitoring resources. Three of our favorites include:
Safe Lagoon: Award winning and comprehensive, this app has several features including safe social networking, family GPS tracking, and instant message monitoring. It allows parents to keep tabs on all online interpersonal interactions. Link: https://safelagoon.com/en/
Boomerang: Get detailed text logs and set your child’s phone to only receive calls from approved contacts. Get real-time notifications when the app detects inappropriate words in text or messaging conversations. Link: https://useboomerang.com
Net Nanny: This software provides parents with instant reporting of online searches, notifications of apps used, and alerts when explicit content is detected (porn, suicide, weapons and drug related). Link: https://www.netnanny.com
The key to protecting children from grooming is to continuously monitor online interactions with not only strangers, but known/trusted individuals as well. These aforementioned software systems can help you do so in a well controlled, user-friendly manner.
Summer vacation is upon us, which could pose new safety problems for our children. Here are some helpful tips to keep summer hazards at bay:
1. Always be prepared by bringing water
Never expect that there will be a source of water at your destination. Fill up water bottles to bring along and if possible, put it in a cooler.
2. Know the warning signs of dehydration
According to Medicineplus.gov, these can include:
Crying without tears
Eyes that look sunken in
Lack of urination for 3 hours or more
3. If at a pool or beach, always be attentive to your child’s whereabouts
Never assume that a lifeguard has eyes on your child. Drowning can happen in just 18 seconds, and most often occurs quietly. This means that your child may not scream, splash, or shout for help. Additionally, 67% of all drownings (CDC.gov) occur in a backyard setting.
4. Do not leave children in a hot car
A hot car can reach 109 degrees in just 10 minutes and can be fatal. If needed, place important items (such as your phone or purse) next to your child in the car.
5. Cool down hot seatbelts before your child straps in
Seatbelts pose a burn risk. Cool the buckle down by applying a cold compress and make sure there is a barrier between your child’s skin and the belt.
6. Use sunscreen
Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going outdoors, even on cloudy days. Use generous amounts and reapply often, especially if swimming or excessively sweating.
Remember, summer is most fun when everyone is safe and healthy!
As October comes to an end, we would like to thank all of SCCAC professionals for their never ending hard work and compassion. Patient-centered care is a practice that is very meaningful and valuable to us at the SCCAC. We strive to always put the needs of children and their families first in order to ensure they feel comfortable and safe. Throughout the interviews with team members, we have seen an abundance of true care provided to the families we serve. For example, the children and families have victims advocacy available 24/7 and medical exams are offered to all children at no cost. It is crucial that both the child and their caregivers feel supported throughout their healing process. We are here to ensure that every child and family in need of SCCAC services feels supported and safe to share their story.
To report a suspicion of child abuse or neglect, please call the Department of Children and Families 24 hour hotline at 1-800-842-2288.
Remember, if you need help call the Connecticut’s Alliance to Stop Sexual Violence Hotline 24 hours a day.
The South Central Child Advocacy Center collaborates with various mental health agencies to assist children and their families with the healing process. The Bridging Program is a unique program that personally reaches out to the victims and encourages the caregiver and child to come in for treatment. The treatment process consists of 5-8 sessions that focuses on preventative care and uses evidence based treatment methods. These sessions focus on helping the child find ways to manage their symptoms as well as assisting their parents throughout this process. The “Involvement of Family and Friends” principle is an aspect that is essential to the work done at the Bridging Program because of the significant role that a family plays in the victims’ lives. Incorporating the families into the treatment plan is a vital component for providing the child with a solid foundation that is necessary for their recovery process. When a child is a victim of abuse, their families struggle too. Providing these services to the entire family is a way to ensure that recovery is occurring in all aspects of the victim’s life.
“It is important for a caregiver to be involved, most importantly for the child’s recovery, but also the parents recovery as well.” -Kristen Hammel, LCSW, Trauma Services Coordinator
As October comes to a close, we would like to focus on the importance of access to care; another core principle of patient centered services. At the Rape Crisis Center of Milford, children and families have access to care whenever they need it through their 24/7 hour hotline. Their Victim Advocates can provide immediate services, at no cost, which include crisis intervention, referrals for therapy, assistance with accessing transportation to appointments, accompaniment to the hospital and court. Please follow the link below for more information about the Rape Crisis Center of Milford https://www.rapecrisiscenterofmilford.org/.
“Patients need to know they can access care when it is needed. If transportation is an issue, we will make the necessary arrangements to provide services.” – Peggy Pisano, MDT Coordinator and Director of Victim Services
The clinicians we partner with are passionate about providing children and their families with mental health treatment amidst their traumatic experiences. One example includes creating a space that the child can feel physically comfortable in. The clinicians allow the child to choose where they would like to sit, play with toys and provide a physically comfortable spot. They educate the child and provide them with crisis management. This physical comfortability includes working on relaxation and mindfulness techniques which they can utilize both inside and outside their therapy sessions.
“The most important thing is that a client relationship is formed and that everything else is left outside. We need to be a safe space for the client.” – Raysa Florentino, Clifford Beers Clinic
Family advocates play a neutral role when supporting families from the time their child discloses of abuse all the way through the court process and beyond. Three advocates at Clifford Beers CATCH Program shared how they assist families in meeting basic and emotional needs while navigating the criminal justice system. Many families face challenges when first accessing assistance. These advocates walk alongside the family through the process, help answer questions, make referrals to assist in meeting basic needs, and provide education on victims rights and the dynamics of abuse.. The advocates shared that most children and their caregivers feel overwhelmed or even frightened by the words “DCF” or “Police Officer”. An advocate can help by educating them about the involvement and role of these professionals. These advocates hearts are full and are ready to help both children and their families when they need it. These services are free and available in both English and Spanish.
“In English, all the information we give can be confusing to parents and children, imagine hearing it in a different language it’s like a whole other world. We are here to help assist those families that need translations in order for them to fully understand and comprehend the process.” -Maria Negron-Hart, Family Advocate-Clifford Beers