Protecting our children is a top priority for GBMC and the Baltimore County Child Advocacy Center. In the second session of our educational webinar series, GBMC Community Partnership Collaborations: Ensuring the Best Outcomes for Child Abuse Victims, Laura Clary, MSN, RN, FNE-A/P, SANE-A, GBMC Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) and Domestic Violence (DV) Program Manager was joined by Baltimore County Detective (Crimes Against Children Unit) Shannon Markel to discuss the many ways GBMC works with community partners to ensure the children in our community are kept safe.
Laura and Detective Markel shared that both programs are seeing an increase in child abuse cases, with almost 400 cases reported to the county in 2021. Topics covered include evidence collection, signs to look for, and the importance of having critical conversations with our children early on.
Here are some of the important points that were discussed:
- Early and honest conversations with your children are critical. It is important for your children to know who trusted adults are in their life (parent, teacher, counselor) and to understand body safety, using the real terms for body parts. Detective Markel shared that it is important your child knows they can say no if a situation makes them uncomfortable.
- GBMC's SAFE/DV Program and the Baltimore County Child Advocacy Center follow a Child First Doctrine. This ensures children who are brought in for exams and interviews are treated in a compassionate manner and they understand every step of the process. Because of the SAFE/DV Suite at GBMC, children can receive medical care and talk to investigators and social workers in one location.
- The interview covered important signs and symptoms of child abuse that parents, neighbors and teachers can look for. If a child no longer wishes to be around a certain family member, or if they no longer engage in activities they used to enjoy, ask them why.
- The main goal of both programs is to help children heal. Part of that process means working with them when they are ready. GBMC's Child Life Specialists are present for SAFE exams, and everyone involved makes sure to tell the child they are very brave. The SAFE/DV program provides referrals to trauma specialists in the community.
The GBMC SAFE/DV Program would not be available as a resource in our community without the support of generous donors. The team is so grateful for donors, large and small, that support the program each year. Patients of the SAFE/DV Program never receive a bill for their services. In addition to donations helping to cover the costs associated with staffing the program 24/7/365, donations provide items such as new clothes, which are often collected for evidence, a new toothbrush, a bravery bag for a child and so much more.
You can also support the SAFE/DV Program by participating in the 7th annual Walk a Mile in Their Shoes event.