Spurwink’s Center for Safe and Healthy Families (CSHF), Maine’s only provider of forensic medical exams for children who may have been abused or neglected, was recently awarded a grant from the National Children’s Alliance for EVA (enhanced visual assessment) equipment. Forensic medical exams for child abuse are often the first step in healing as it reassures the child, connects them to survivor resources, and helps ensure a timely and less traumatic prosecution. The exam culminates in a legally defensible and accurate forensic diagnosis, assuring appropriate treatment for the child and family. Annually the program evaluates approximately 1,200 children.
CSHF employs the only two child abuse pediatricians in the State, in addition to two nurse practitioners who work under their supervision. The new equipment will allow for immediate supervision and consultation on cases in satellite locations, reducing the likelihood that children will need to be seen on more than one occasion for a medical exam. The equipment is hands free which facilitates a more child friendly exam by allowing the provider to document the exam more quickly, with less stress for children.
The grant will increase the capacity and effectiveness of Maine’s medical examinations by capturing forensic evidence for legal proceedings. The equipment will also provide opportunity for secure peer review and help coordinate follow-up medical care for clients, utilizing the documented medical findings to aid in prosecution, and to determine appropriate medical and mental health treatment for child physical and sexual abuse and neglect cases.
The CSHF houses and co-facilitates the Cumberland County Children’s Advocacy Center (CCCAC), and partners with Children’s Advocacy Centers (CAC) statewide to provide forensic medical exams for Maine children. CACs bring together law enforcement, child protection & prosecution, and victim advocacy to investigate and assess child abuse reports, providing consistent, evidence-based interventions that help children heal from abuse. Children seen at the CCCAC are offered medical exams on the same day that they are interviewed.
Anticipated Grant Outcomes:
- Increase the capacity of the program;
- Assist investigators in holding offenders accountable for child physical and sexual abuse;
- Assist prosecutors in civil and criminal proceedings for cases in which the photo and video documentation is used as evidence in court cases;
- Reduce re-traumatization of children by capturing effective evidence during the first exam, making it available for peer review, and to law enforcement and prosecutors; and
- Find justice through the legal system for children who may have been abused, and build resiliency through effective forensic exams, legal proceedings, and mental health services.