BY KEVIN MCCONLOGUE
The Children’s Center of Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties, a child’s advocacy center serving children of the two counties is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year.
The center, located in Montrose, provides comprehensive services for kids who have experienced abuse or trauma, specifically physical or sexual abuse, exposure to violence, and malnourishment and neglect.
The children who are brought into the center are put through a series of forensic and medical exams conducted by professionals.
One of those professionals is Janine Fortney, who serves as the program director for the Children’s Advocacy Center, and is one of the professionals who conducts the interviews with children. She says one of the center’s goals is to provide a safe opportunity for children to be able to tell their stories.
“It gives the kids an opportunity to tell their story in full detail without the pressures of having to talk about their events to multiple people,” Fortney said. “This center is a place for children to do that with only one individual taking away some anxiety.”
Child abuse and child sexual abuse are pointed to as one of the main reasons that could halt a child’s physical development and mental well-being, which is why the center also provides trauma therapy for children.
“After an allegation is made, it’s important for the child, and for the family, to be able to address any issues that might arise from the event that occurred.” Fortney said. “We have a trauma therapist who’s trained to be able to handle a range of ages and family dynamics to help with these cases.”
Inside, the center is equipped with rooms filled with toys and coloring books to bring the children a sense of calm when they are brought in. It is also equipped with two therapy rooms that are monitored by video camera and audio so the specialists can monitor the child’s behavior at all times.
As the center grows, one thing it is doing is local community outreach, especially within the schools, to try and teach students and teachers the signs of potential abuse and how to keep their students safe.
“Talking about it with people and having conversations is one of the most important things that we could do,” Fortney said. “Child abuse is an issue in our communities and we can’t ignore it because it’s the way a certain family deals with it. We need to open about it and schools are a good place to raise awareness.”
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, when going into schools has not been an option, the center continues to check on their children as times of isolation can be hard on children who don’t have the best home lives.
When the pandemic is over, Fortney anticipates getting back into the local communities of Susquehanna and Wyoming counties and even expanding their outreach efforts.
“Any organizations that are willing to hear more about us, and learn about the center by providing donations and sponsorships, helps us keep our doors open,” Fortney said. “It also makes sure our equipment is working and up-to-date, which we need to complete all of our exams.”
The Children’s Center of Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties is looking forward to serving their community well into the future.