SAN ANTONIO – One in ten children in Bexar County will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18, according to ChildSafe, an organization that provides crisis intervention, case management, and therapy for abused children.
This figure is one of many disturbing child abuse statistics in the Bexar County community, which is why those children must be cared for in a specific way, so they can fully heal.
It seems like a small difference -- asking trauma victims: “What happened to you?” versus “What’s wrong with you?” But that trauma-informed care can permanently change lives.
“The old way of doing work was -- we were very diagnostic about things, so we would ask people what’s wrong with them,” said Licensed Professional Counselor Randy McGibeny. “Trauma-informed care says, ‘Tell me your story. Tell me what happened to you.’ So then that way, they’re empowered to come forward and really talk about their life experiences.”
McGibeny, chief operating officer of ChildSafe, said there has been a plethora of research on the effects of untreated or undertreated child trauma.
“One of them is the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, and what that research shows is that individual children who have experienced multiple adverse experiences as children have a shorter life expectancy,” McGibeny said. “They wind up developing mental health issues, physical health issues like heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, things of that nature. In addition, they wind up becoming reliant on social service systems or in the jail system.”
For years, ChildSafe worked on involving trauma-informed care in their programs, and Tuesday, they were awarded an official certification by the Ecumenical Center.
“The South Texas Trauma Informed Consortium began about three-and-a-half years ago, and the Ecumenical Center was selected to become the certifying body. What that meant is that we had to develop standards and domains for levels of certification,” said Ecumenical Center CEO Mary Beth Fisk.
Fisk said those standards ensuring trauma-informed care include:
- leadership embracing extra labor and expenses
- the creation of teams to assess all program aspects
- procedures on things like greeting visitors, like eye contact and not asking too many invasive questions off the bat
- providing safe and calming places for trauma victims
Sixty-four local organizations are eligible for the level one certification, and ChildSafe is only the second to get it behind Methodist Health Care Ministries.
Depending on the size and complexity of the organization, it can take anywhere from one to four years to get the certification which includes a review of the organization’s programs and a site visit.
McGibeny said these certifications could bridge big gaps in services for abused children.
“ChildSafe can be trauma-informed, but if our law enforcement partners, our child protective services partners or medical partners aren’t, then it doesn’t really work. It falls apart. When you have multiple organizations that are trauma-informed, the child gets treated the same way with the same dignity, the same respect,” he said.
McGibeny said the whole organization is honored to be awarded what he calls such a prestigious certification.
To learn more about trauma-informed care, call ChildSafe at (210) 616-0885 or visit their website.
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