A haven for children who live in houses of pain

Put yourself in their place: Children’s Advocacy Center offers abuse victims a way to tell their story without adding to their suffering

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Photos



  • Center staff, back row (from left): Sondra Federo, Susan Hennemuth, MaryAnn LaPorta, Bridget Conway, Kristen Cashurie Fetcho. Front: Cindy Patha, Jennifer Agliloro. (Photo by Jerry Goldberg)




  • Playroom at the center.






  • Teen Advocacy Center, located right behind the main building.




  • Playroom at the center.



One out of every four girls and one out of every four boys will be sexually abused before they reach 18. More than 90 percent of child abuse perpetrators are known to the child or family.

By Jerry Goldberg
— Here's how a typical child abuse case starts. A child, let's call her Robin, tells her teacher at school that someone has hurt her. Robin then talks to her principal and the school nurse, who also gives a physical examination. The school then calls the police, who are next to talk to Robin. Robin then has to talk with another counselor at the hospital — but only after she speaks to a second nurse, a social worker, and a doctor. Robin is then interviewed by a protection investigator and an assistant district attorney.

By this time, Robin is quite confused and scared. She may have talked to as many as 10 people about the traumatic events in her life, all the while filled with needless shame and guilt.

If you suspect that a child is being abused, call Childline at 1-800-932-0313.

The Children’s Advocacy Center of Northeastern Pennsylvania in Scranton changes the whole process for the better. Now, Robin has to tell her story only once, to a child forensic interviewer, while a detective, CPS caseworker, assistant district attorney, and a trauma counselor listens as a team. The interview is videotaped so Robin doesn’t have to repeat, and relive, the trauma over and over again. She can also be checked by a doctor right at the center.

The center recently added a Teen Advocacy Center, the first of its kind in the nation, to give teenaged victims of abuse the same help they offer younger children.

One of four children are abused

Children who are abused experience shame, fear, and guilt. They need time, love, and special treatment to heal, and to keep the trauma from damaging the rest of their lives.

One out of every four girls and one out of every four boys will be sexually abused before they reach 18. More than 90 percent of child abuse perpetrators are known to the child or family.

The Children’s Advocacy Center's mission is to provide assessment and treatment for the neglect and worse suffered by children from infancy to age 18. Since its opening in 1998, the center has helped more than 9.500 children and adolescents.

The center estimates that 84 percent of children are sexually abused, 11 percent physically abused, and the rest a combination of both kinds of abuse or serious neglect.

The center, which provides a place for 'round-the-clock care and healing, is a child's first stop before entering the criminal justice system. In this safe environment, in the presence of a forensic interviewer, they can speak the unimaginable.

The center is a private, nonprofit charitable organization and is the designated child abuse center for Lackawana County. They also handle child abuse cases referred by Luzerne, Wayne, Pike, Monroe, Carbon, Susquehana, and Wyoming counties. An array of child abuse prevention programs are available to professionals and the communities they serve.

In 2013 the center provided forensic interviews, medical assessments, trauma therapy, and child advocacy services to 1,411 children and adolescents. More than 63 percent of children seen were girls and 37 percent were boys. Thirty-seven percent were between the ages of 0 and 6, 30 percent between 7 and 12, and 30 percent between 13 and 18. Seventy-two percent were Caucasian, 17 percent African American, 10 percent Hispanic, and 1 percent other.

Since 2004 there has been a 210 percent increase in the number of children seen at the center. Its only purpose is to help abused children when they need it most. Child abuse is a community problem and as such requires a community response.

If you know of any child in need of help, give the center a call any time of the day or night at 570-969-7313. All calls will be kept confidential.


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