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Center Opens for Child Abuse Victims in Centre County

by on February 21, 2014 3:38 PM

Center Opens for Child Abuse Victims in Centre County

A center offering a new investigative approach for child abuse victims is now available for authorities in Centre County.

The Child Advocacy Center at 129 Medical Park Lane in Bellefonte officially opened its doors Friday.

The center will offer a child-friendly, streamlined approach to interviewing children who have made allegations of abuse or children who have witnessed other crimes. The intent is to create an investigative system that minimizes trauma for the child.

Kristina Taylor-Porter, executive director, said Friday, "As our doors officially open today to accept referrals for forensic interviews and medical exams, we are pleased to be open for services at the Children's Advocacy Center of Centre County. We are proud to be a resource for children and families across the region."

What makes this set-up unique is that trained forensic staff will interview victims in a child-friendly environment while representatives from law enforcement, Children and Youth and the District Attorney's office observe the interview from another room.

A single interview reduces the trauma for a child and reduces the chances that a child may recant their story out of frustration. It is common for a child victim to be interviewed anywhere from seven to 21 times during an investigation.

The number of interviews conducted can, in part, be attributed to the number of ongoing investigations – a criminal investigation by law enforcement and a well-being investigation by Children and Youth. Through the process, a child may be asked the same question repeatedly.

Additionally, the center has three trained physicians to conduct a medical exam following the interview to ensure the child's physical health is fine.

District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller says the center has already been utilized.

"We are thrilled to be able to state we are finally using all of the best practices for the welfare of children in Centre County," says Parks Miller. "We did a few interviews today at the center, a medical exam, and the setting was comfortable and relaxed for the children and thankfully will not be duplicated. The professional wisdom and skill of the team truly puts the child first."

The center also connects children and their families with victim advocates from the Women's Resource Center who support victims through the duration of their cases. The center will also make referrals for mental health services.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government. jenn.miller@statecollege.com
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