Help is available and it's the kind of help that allows a child and, most importantly, the entire family to begin healing.
Every 10 minutes, somewhere in Ohio, a child is abused or neglected. Maybe you know a family where abuse is happening. Maybe that family is yours. Whatever the situation, help is available and it's the kind of help that allows a child and, most importantly, the entire family to begin healing. WHAT: The Center for Family Safety and Healing (TCFSH) was formed in 2011 through the merger of the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence and the Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Nationwide Children's Hospital (NCH). The Center houses a wide variety of resources for families under one roof. The Center is probably best known for its Child Assessment Center (CAC): It helps families, medical professionals and law-enforcement personnel determine if a child has been physically, emotionally and/or sexually abused. When abuse has occurred, the Center also is able to guide a family through treatment and provide recovery services. HOW AN ASSESSMENT HAPPENS: When abuse is suspected, a child and his or her family can be connected with the Center through a number of ways: *Families can call The Center directly and request an appointment. The Center conducts about six assessments per day, five days a week. *Referrals can be made by medical professionals, law-enforcement personnel, by Franklin County Children Services or by agencies in other cities, counties and even other states. WHAT HAPPENS DURING AN ASSESSMENT: *The child and a caregiver arrive at the Center. There is a waiting area which looks a lot like a preschool room and is equipped with a chalkboard, toys, books, a rocking chair and child-sized furniture. The alleged abuser is not allowed to come with them. *A team of experts is assembled. This team includes medical professionals, social workers and representatives from law enforcement and child-protective services. They are able to view some portions of the assessment via closed-circuit television. *The assessment takes about two hours. A social worker will meet with and interview the child. A mental health counselor also meets with and interviews the caregiver who has brought the child to the Center. A pediatrician conducts a physical examination of the child. Following this exam, each child is given a brand-new stuffed animal (with the tags still on so the child knows it's new). *The team of experts meets immediately, reviews the findings and determines how to proceed if there is sufficient evidence to suggest that abuse has occurred. If there is, law enforcement will pursue its case against the abuser; child-protective services also will conduct its own investigation and help develop a course of treatment. FACT AND FICTION: The experts that Columbus Parent spoke with offered many insights into the problem of and solutions for family violence: Fiction: When a child is abused, he or she is automatically removed from the home. Fact: The majority of children never have to be removed from the home. Even when a member of that household is alleged to be the abuser, the child is rarely removed. The alleged abuser is more likely to be removed. Fiction: If I don't seek help for my child, no one else will. Fact: The Center will see an increase in referrals in the weeks after children return to school. Teachers find out about abuse in the children's homes and they are mandated by law to report it. Referrals also peak during spells of hot weather. Fiction: The incidence of child sexual abuse is on the rise. Fact: Many experts believe the incidence of sexual assault of children by adults is on the decline, but the incidence of child-on-child assault is on the rise. Some researchers point to highly sexualized imagery and content in mass media for this. Fiction: A child can only be seen at the Center if they have insurance. Fact: The Center will work with families to offset the costs of assessment. Treatment can be covered through a variety of sources, including private insurance, public grants and donations to the Center. No one in need will be turned away. Fiction: Thanks to crime shows on television, caregivers sometimes come in with serious misconceptions about how a child will be examined or they examine a child's genitals themselves for signs of sexual abuse. Fact: Only medical professionals should conduct such exams. Also, a child will not be given general anesthesia before a medical exam. WHERE:TCFSH is located at 655 E. Livingston Ave., on the campus of Nationwide Children's Hospital. Parking is available to the south of the building and is accessed by turning south down Wager Street from Livingston Avenue. By following this link, you can take an interactive, online tour of the Center: nationwidechildrens.org/ccfa-directions-and-tours. HOW TO CONTACT: TCFSH's main phone number is 614-722-8200. You can directly call the Child Assessment Center to schedule an appointment at 614-722-3278. The Center's website address is nationwidechildrens.org/ccfa.