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Child Advocacy Center Training First Responders on Signs of Abuse

Captain Dan Cohen, EMS Clinical Practices and video producer.

Captain Dan Cohen, EMS Clinical Practices and video producer.

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Seeds sown during the Williamson County Community Child Care Forum last February are now yielding fruit. Williamson County’s Senior Director of Emergency Services John Sneed, EMS Director Kenny Schnell and Children’s Advocacy Center Director Monica Benoit-Beatty discussed the need for first responders to be able to recognize signs of abuse.

On Nov 1, Williamson County EMS rolled out a video called “Recognizing Child Abuse for First Responders” for all medical responders in the Williamson County EMS system, including fire departments and law enforcement.

“We felt it was important to increase awareness of what could be going on at a scene if there was child abuse and how kids and parents might be reacting. We hope this helps first responders to look at a scene through new eyes,” states Benoit-Beatty.

“Williamson County EMS and other first responders are good at recognizing and treating physical injuries. We develop a gut instinct about heart attacks and we know how to treat a bruise. This training helps us recognize emotional and behavioral signs of child abuse that will help us develop that same instinct about the cause of an injury. If a parent calls about respiratory problem, we can treat the symptom and possibly ascertain if the child is in distress because of fear. We can notify the experts who can investigate and possibly root out the cause of that fear,” states Dan Cohen, Williamson County EMS clinical practices captain and producer of the video.

Cohen affirms what WCCAC says; that one child is too many but one adult is not near enough to be a safety net. “Everyone in the community, people who want to help others, need to be a part of this; the paid personnel can not do it alone so this video will help everyone recognize those signs.”

Last year, 770 children were interviewed at the Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center for suspected child abuse or as witnesses to a crime. Almost 9,000 children have come through the CAC’s doors for services since it began 20 years ago and they have many more events planned to celebrate the anniversary of this support.

Sadly, more than 60 percent of child abuse cases are sexual abuse and may not show external injury normally recognized by care givers. The CAC uses colors, furniture, toys and other items to make children comfortable while they are questioned by a forensic interviewer to investigate a situation.

Since 2013, the CAC’s outreach coordinator has conducted 465 trainings for 13,588 individuals in the county on how to recognize and report child abuse. The new 43-minute educational video is an attempt to reach and train even more people, specifically more than 500 first responders.

Benoit-Beatty emphasizes that abuse training should be on everyone’s agenda. “Any person age 18 and older in Texas is required by law to report suspected or known child abuse.”  “In Texas, you can call 1-800-252-5400 to report child abuse or go to TXAbuseHotline.org.”

More information can be found on their website at WilcoCAC.org.

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