5 TH ANNIVERSARY OF CHILDREN’S CENTER OF SUSQUEHANNA & WYOMING COUNTIES (CAC)
Family Service Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania (FSA) is excited to announce the fifth anniversary of its Children’s Center of Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties (CAC). The CAC is excited to be celebrating five years of service and the opportunity it affords for the communities to become further aware of its services. CACs are neutral, child- friendly settings where children receive specialized forensic services, using nationally recognized protocols to assure legally sound, that are meant to decrease further trauma by making services available in one place at one time. The results of these services are shared with investigative team members so they can complete their investigations with less need to interview the children repeatedly. Forensic medical exams are performed by Pediatric Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners who conduct the exams using specialized equipment that helps to identify any anomalies or injuries a child may have. These exams play an important role in the healing process for children and their families. There is a sense of relief for them to know they are healthy after a traumatic event like sexual abuse. And if any medical concerns arise from this exam we can connect the family to the appropriate services. The CAC also provides evidence based trauma therapy with a certified trained therapist. Therapy gives children and their families the chance to come to grips with what has happened and move forward to a fuller life. Child sexual abuse cases occur 90% of the time at the hand of someone the child knows. This person is someone the child may have a close, trusting relationship with; a person the child’s family may know well and trust as well. By the time children reach the age of 18, 1 in 10 will have experienced sexual abuse.
CACs are designed to meet the unique needs of the communities they serve and, as such, no two CACs look or operate exactly alike. (Northeast Regional Children’s Advocacy Center) And that is precisely why the stakeholders of these two counties, Susquehanna and Wyoming, committed to the development of a CAC that would address the needs of our communities. Many of these original “stakeholders” of the Children’s Center of Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties (CAC) commented about their reasons for creating the CAC as opposed to continuing to utilize the existing CACs in our region.
Patty Skrynski, retired Administrator of Wyoming County Children and Youth Services stated, “CACs are not a new concept. After the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Children’s Center of Susquehanna & Wyoming Counties 96 Ellsworth Dr. Montrose, PA 18801 Phone: (570) 823-5144 • Fax: (570) 278-3031 www.fsanepa.org the Governor of Pennsylvania made monies available to expand CACs in the Commonwealth. Wyoming and Susquehanna Counties had been using a center in Lackawanna County. This was a long distance for our families to travel. At that time, the quest began to have our own CAC that would serve our rural families. Now, we are celebrating our fifth year of service to the families of both counties. Combining the needs of Law Enforcement, District Attorneys and Children and Youth benefits the victims of sexual and physical abuse. Together, the victims and their families are not further traumatized and justice can be served.”
According to Jeff Mitchell, Wyoming County District Attorney, “It was unprecedented for two small rural counties to create a CAC together and it was a lot of work to get it off the ground. However, it is a very important resource to have. Instead of relying on larger, distant counties for this expertise, we were able to develop it here. Having the CAC enables us to interview and examine children promptly, the staff are available to give us input and advice on cases and the staff have an investment in the counties they serve.”
Janet MacKay, Chief Executive Officer, Victims Resource Center commented, “…. Transportation was often an issue….. We hoped for more communication and interaction between the disciplines involved in these child abuse cases and that is why we began the process of developing a CAC that would specifically serve Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties.” Honorable Jason Legg, President Judge Susquehanna County stated, “The reason we decided to develop the CAC was 1. Because of the travel and distance. People are dealing with so much to begin with and going to an unfamiliar area can make them more nervous; and 2. It is better for the disciplines involved to work together with local resources and local teams…. It was an added blessing to do this with Wyoming County. I am proud of how far the CAC has come in 5 years.”
The number of CACs in Pennsylvania more than doubled from 2015 when the Children’s Center of Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties opened its doors to today. The Jerry Sandusky scandal opened Pennsylvanians’ eyes to the plague that child sexual abuse can be. Today the Advisory Board consists of: The District Attorneys’ offices, Children and Youth Services from each county, Victims Resource Center and Women’s Resource Center, and community members from each county, as well as FSA Board members.
In addition to these stakeholders, I spoke with other community members who expressed their sentiment about the Children’s Center of Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties.
Ellen DiPhillips, Volunteer commented, “As a volunteer, I have been very honored to be part of the CAC. I am grateful that the children in our area have a wonderful place that provides support services for them.
Mary Mushala, Chief Nurse Officer, Endless Mountains Health System, “EMHS is appreciative of having a service such as CAC available in our community. Our relationship has strengthened in the past few years. The CAC has been available should EMHS staff have any questions and to in-service our staff on their functions and available services. It has increased our personal awareness making us better able to care for those we serve. Working in some of the situations they encounter takes a very special person.
Gertrude C. McGowan, Esq., CEO of FSA stated “the communities coming together to offer this wonderfully healing service at the Children’s Center of Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties is the reward for the effort that FSA has undertaken. We could not do what we do without the dedicated staff and their tireless efforts. In the recent COVID 19 pandemic, the Center never stopped providing services, never closed. I am so very excited for the next five years and beyond.”
FSA and its Board, leadership and staff offer a heartfelt thanks to all of those who dug their heels in, formed the planning committee, and did the work along with FSA to build the foundation that this CAC is now standing on.