Spreading the word about Wendy's Place
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Plainfield - posted Tue., Mar. 12, 2013
There has been an increase in investigations reported by Wendy's Place Child Advocacy Center at Day Kimball Hospital in the last few years. The average number of investigations two years ago was 80 to 85 annually. It's currently averaging 120 interviews a year. According to CAC Coordinator Christine Collins, that up-tick may have a silver lining.
“I'm hopeful that the reasons our numbers are going up is because people are talking about it,” Collins said. “People are aware of the fact that it's not okay to touch a child inappropriately. It's not okay that a child just deals with it. So I think that's one reason why our numbers are going up. I'm okay with more disclosures.”
But at the same time, Collins has to face the reduction of federal funds for her office. She's hopeful that state funds will continue at current levels, but she's been told to expect a 10-percent reduction in the amount of money that comes to the center through the National Children's Alliance. “NCA money is federal money,” said Collins. “It's a bigger line item on a bigger budget, so we are definitely losing some of those funds.”
The $79,000 budget provides interview, support and referral services to victims of abuse in Windham County. “We refer families to victim advocates,” Collins said. “We put them in touch with providers for medical evaluations and therapeutic services in their areas. We work closely with law enforcement and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. We make sure they get appropriate referrals.”
A key piece of the service they provide is the initial interview. Interviewers include law enforcement and DCF personnel. They go through an extensive week-long training. “These cases go to prosecution,” Collins said. “We want to make sure these interviews are done completely, appropriately and following all protocols.” The state's attorney reviews all cases to determine if there is sufficient evidence to begin criminal action against an alleged offender.
Collins would like to see Wendy's Place continue to provide prevention programs. “Prevention is so important,” she said. “We want people to talk about it. We want to see less kids.” Unfortunately, the prevention programs will most likely be affected by budget cutbacks. To make up for shortfalls in the past, Collins has relied on donations. Those donations have helped fund the “Darkness to Light Stewards of Children Training. The three-hour program educates parents and caregivers about the signs and symptoms of child abuse. “Sometimes parents aren't sure of the signs and symptoms,” Collins said. The training aims to give that education to community members.
Singing teacher Chris Berry is one community member who intends to see that those donations keep flowing to Wendy's Place. Berry learned about the center through an article about Jimmy's Kids Foundation, an organization that raises money for Wendy's Place. “I was drawn to it,” she said. “Children are the most vulnerable people on the planet. When adults abuse them, it's just not right.”
Berry has been teaching singing lessons to children for 10 years. “These kids have had a huge influence on me,” she said. “I just kept thinking about kids singing for kids. It just kept rolling around in my head.” She and her children's singing group, “Vocal Expressions,” have planned a concert at Joyful House restaurant in Plainfield for March 17. The money raised will go to help fund programs at Wendy's Place. “I want them to know that their singing is a gift, and they can give that gift to others,” she said.
Collins welcomed the idea. Anything to promote discussion about child abuse will help lessen its occurrence, she said. “We don't even teach our kids the correct terminology for our body parts because it's taboo. That's a disservice to children,” Collins said. “It's about being appropriate and clear. That starts the discussion about what's okay and what's not okay.”