Child advocacy: Reducing trauma through mental health services – Daily Leader – Dailyleader

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Child advocacy: Reducing trauma through mental health services

Published 11:00 am Saturday, April 6, 2024

Children who are victims of abuse often experience traumatic life events.

There are many different forms of abuse that children experience including physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or are a witness to a violent crime.

Exposure to these traumatic events for children leads to an array of services available through a local child advocacy center. The CAC also provides services for caregivers and other family members in an effort of reducing trauma for the child.

The Children’s Advocacy Center movement first started in the 1980s, providing a wide variety of child-focused services through employees of different disciplines working together for the best interest of the child.

The main goal of a child advocacy center is to provide a safe environment where the child can feel comfortable talking about their abuse.

CACs work through a collaborative multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach to respond to child abuse cases within the community.

The core multidisciplinary team is made up of professionals from law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, medical providers, mental health providers, victim advocacy, and MDT leadership and CAC staff.

In a collaborative effort the team meets to identify the needs and how to best improve the mental and physical health of each victim. The investigating agencies are collectively bringing to the table the progress made towards prosecution, while the CAC staff, mental health providers, medical providers, and child protective services are providing for the needs of the victim and working together to support them and their non-offending caregivers.

One discipline that plays an important role in a CAC is the mental health therapist. According to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, nearly 118,000 children in the United States reportedly experienced physical abuse, and approximately 57,000 children reportedly experienced sexual abuse in 2016.

Child maltreatment often has a negative impact on child victims leading to post-traumatic stress and trauma-related behavioral problems. The CAC provides trauma-focused, evidence-supported mental health treatment. Evidence-based mental health treatments help reduce the impact of trauma and other negative circumstances.

The role of the CAC mental health therapist includes providing and conducting a Trauma Screening for victims of abuse. This screening tool allows the therapist to identify and understand the child’s experiences. The therapist identifies recommendations needed to design an individualized treatment plan that is appropriate for the child and other family members.

Evidence shows caregiver and family support can be key to the child’s recovery and ongoing protection and can improve the caregiver’s capacity to support their child.

A CAC therapist not only provides mental health treatment to the victim but provides treatment that includes child and caregiver engagement treatment.

In some cases, the caregiver or other family members may also benefit from counseling to assist with addressing the impact of the abuse and strengthening the family. Caregiver and family support is essential to recovery and overall family functioning and well-being.

The CAC mental health therapist benefits other partners by sharing information for efficient interagency communication and ongoing collaboration to help ensure the best outcome for the clients. The CAC mental health therapist helps support the CAC’s mission to promote and foster safety, healing and justice for children and families.



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