Local Agencies Sign Commitment to Help Abused Children
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At the Bivona Child Advocacy Center
on Lake Ave. in Rochester, representatives from Child Protective Services, police departments, the District Attorney's office, doctors, social workers, and therapists are all working to help children.
The center's goal is to create one place, where children who have been physically or sexually abused can come to be interviewed, examined and begin counseling.
"So that we don't have to re-victimize these kids and sending them to the emergency department and waiting for six hours. So we don't have to send them to the police station. We don't have to have them repeat their story over and over and over again," said Bivona Executive Director Mary Whittier.
Bivona opened in August of 2004. Since then, more than 7,700 children have been evaluated there; almost 1,300 of them last year alone.
Statistics show that nearly five children die a day from abuse or neglect in the US. It's estimated that one in four girls and one in six boys will experience some kind of sexual abuse by the age of 18.
That's why every year Bivona brings members of local agencies together to sign a Memorandum of Understanding, a commitment that all those agencies will work together so that children who have been abused receive the care they need.
Many of those in law enforcement say they're grateful the center exists.
"The resources here are not something I can replicate in the town of Ogden," said Ogden Police Chief Doug Nordquist. "All the officers are capable of conducting the interviews but for the ease of the investigation and the welfare of the child, the Bivona center offers the optimum results."
Greece Police Chief Todd Baxter says a recent case in his town shows why even for a larger department like his, the center is an asset. Former school bus monitor Paul Kinney was sentenced last year to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.
"The problem was we had multiple victims. We didn't know how many victims we had," said Chief Baxter. "We also had multiple entities that wanted to talk to them: the school district wanted to talk to them to make sure their policies and procedures were being followed, we wanted to talk to them, counselors, health care officials. It really brought stability to the investigation."
Whittier says despite such a big presence year after year at the signing event, many still don't know Bivona is here. She's hoping to change that.
"The idea is to spread the word among the law enforcement community, the school system, the professional community, but it's also to educate the community as a whole that this resource exists."