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In the News, Press Releases

Family and Children’s Place office to reopen in Jeffersonville

BY MAKENNA HALL News and Tribune

February 2, 2022

JEFFERSONVILLE — After its original Jeffersonville location burned, Family and Children’s Place will once again have an office in the city to provide resources for those experiencing abuse or neglect.

When the Court and Spring streets location was destroyed in December 2020, Family and Children’s place had to quickly figure out how it would continue providing resources to the community.

Because the event happened to occur after nearly a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization was already offering most of its services online. While being virtual presented several challenges on its own, it did mean they did not have to halt their services altogether.

To keep some of their services in person, CEO Pam Darnall said Family and Children’s Place used and created partnerships with other local groups.

The Child Advocacy Center is one of the services Darnall said was ideal to have in person. The center works with children who have experienced sexual abuse or trafficking, and Darnall explained how offering these services online is difficult.

She said that it is challenging for young children who have had these experiences of sexual abuse to look at a computer and tell someone, especially when they do not fully understand what has happened.

“It’s just different. It makes it much more difficult to develop a relationship…or to develop trust doing that through a computer as opposed to actually being able to see and be in a room with a staff member who is fully trained in how to make sure that that child or that youth feels very comfortable,” Darnall continued.

A service dog, Emmy, is also present at the center to help make the children more comfortable and feel better about talking to the staff.

Along with mental health services and forensic interviews, the center also provides medical screenings with a board-certified child abuse pediatrician, Dr. Melissa Currie from the University of Louisville.

Additionally, the center focuses on how parents or caregivers might respond in situations where their child has experienced this abuse.

“I can only imagine the anxiety and the anger and the fear that would create for that parent or caregiver. So it’s really important that our staff and our mental health staff understand how to help manage that with that family,” Darnall said.

Because of the importance of the center’s work, the organization took many precautionary and safety steps when the pandemic began to stay open. The organization worked with an infectious disease specialist to create protocols.

“Even from the beginning of COVID…our Child Advocacy Center, in Southern Indiana and Louisville, kept seeing kids in person because we knew we had to,” Darnall said.

For the same reasons, they quickly looked to find a location for the center when they lost the Jeffersonville office.

Family and Children’s Place, which already had a partnership with Baptist Health Floyd, was able to expand the services offered at the hospital and keep the center running there.

A temporary partnership was formed with the Center for Women and Families to offer some of the Child Advocacy Center and counseling services at the Jeffersonville facility.

“We do know that it was cumbersome for families. So we know some families lack consistent, reliable transportation. Whereas they live in Jeffersonville and they could get to us at Court and Spring…it can be really difficult for them to get to Floyd County,” Darnall said.

“So we really were intentional about trying to find even a temporary place.”

While Darnall said they were very appreciative of the partnerships, they are excited to have their new permanent space.

The previous space was adequately sized and nicely located for families, Darnall said, but the new space is much bigger and will allow the organization to better serve families.

The new location, at 1 Quartermaster Court, will have a staff of 12 and offer mental health services every day. The Child Advocacy Center will be open on Mondays and Thursdays, though Darnall said that the facility will be available 24/7 for emergencies.

An exact date for when the new office will open has not been set, but Darnall said they hope to be settled in the next couple of weeks.

The Louisville organization started in 1883 and has had a presence in Southern Indiana for 40 years, according to Darnall.

Darnall said they are honored to be in Southern Indiana and helping kids and families. She also highlighted that there is an increased prevalence of child abuse and neglect in Indiana and across the country.

Though Indiana now ranks 15th in country for child abuse rate per 1,000 kids, according to the 2019 Child Maltreatment report, Darnall said that the state ranked at number two for several years.

The pandemic has impacted the number of child abuse reports in the state, according to Darnall, as students were primarily learning virtually.

“Research also shows that a large majority, sometimes 70%, of all child abuse reports are made by teachers,” Darnall said, “When children are isolated in that way it really made child abuse and neglect happen without anybody seeing it, and without someone being able to ask questions.”

Darnall emphasized that all adults in Indiana are required to report any suspicions of child abuse or neglect. Reports should be made to the Department of Child Services, at 1-800-800-5556, or to local law enforcement agencies.

Link to Original Story from News and Tribune