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New partnership to promote prevention, healing for child sexual abuse

Children's Advocacy Center and Cherry Health team up
Posted at 7:19 AM, Jun 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-30 14:24:31-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mi. — The Children's Advocacy Center of Kent County coordinates the community response to child sexual abuse. That means bringing together law enforcement, child protective services, medical professionals and therapists to deal with cases and using those resources to promote education and prevention. Right now, they estimate that they’re missing more than 14,000 children who have experienced sexual abuse. Hopefully a new partnership will ensure that more of these vulnerable victims get the care and support they need.

CEO and President Melissa Werkman says, "We know that if we can get in front of child sexual abuse as soon as possible, we can get that child on the path to healing but also provide support services for the family.” But, she says the only way the Children’s Advocacy Center can get in front of the problem is to identify where it’s happening. "We know we are missing a fair number of families. More in the urban core, we've identified a few key places in Kent County that we know if we are able to meet families where they are, we're going to be able to improve their access.”

Tasha Blackmon is the President and CEO of Cherry Health, she also serves on the board of the CAC. She says, "I became acutely aware of some of the needs that our patients had with the CAC that could possibly be improved by having a satellite site in the inner city in the urban core.” Patients here get comprehensive care, regardless of their insurance or ability to pay. "We provide medical, dental, behavioral health services and the beauty of our services is we provide care that is integrated, which means all of the providers are able to talk about your care, they’re able to consult with one another about your care, which makes the outcomes that our patients experience pretty seamless.”

Now there's just another branch to that care through the CAC, in the form of therapy and trauma-specific training for all the pediatric providers. A way to reach more of the community, closer to home. Blackmon says, "I think as your organization grows and develops, you realize that you can't do it alone and you shouldn't have to do it all alone. So, partnerships like the one we have with the CAC, I think it heightens the care we provide, but because it allows them to specialize in their area of expertise.” And Werkman agrees, saying the more people who are educated and involved, the better the outcomes for survivors. "This is a community wide problem. It is not just our problem to solve it. It happens in every community in Kent County, regardless of socio-economic status, regardless of faith or belief system. It is in everyone's backyard, so it's incumbent upon all of us to respond.”

If you have any questions or may be concerned about child abuse in your home or community, you can reach out to the CAC, at