The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation has awarded a $67,500 grant to the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network (WVCAN) to support the improvement of child abuse medical services across the state. Through the grant, WVCAN will build upon an ongoing project to improve the accessibility of quality medical care for child abuse victims in West Virginia.
“All child abuse victims deserve high-quality medical care to help them heal,” said Emily Chittenden-Laird, WVCAN’s executive director. “For our youngest children who cannot tell someone what is happening, a visit to the doctor could be the only way their abuse is discovered. Because the availability of quality medical care for these victims varies across the state, WVCAN, doctors, prosecutors, child protective services, law enforcement and others are working together to make sure child abuse victims in West Virginia get the same standard of care, regardless of where they live or their ability to pay.”
When doctors and nurses know the warning signs of abuse and what to do if they see it, child abuse is less likely to be overlooked or misdiagnosed – a critical part of the safety net that can save a child’s life.
That is why, with early support from the Benedum Foundation and Bernard McDonough Foundation, the project group first developed protocols for medical providers in an effort to standardize the care children and families receive when child abuse is reported or suspected. The protocols, endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the West Virginia Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, help medical professionals screen for sexual and physical abuse when a child has unexplained injuries.
Also within the first phase of the project, ongoing medical education was delivered to 26 professionals and many were connected to other quality improvement activities.
With the new Benedum grant, activities will include developing a network of medical professionals who meet national standards for child abuse medical care, providing child abuse medical education and training to medical professionals, and delivering technical assistance to communities doing grassroots work to improve these services in their areas.