Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $552,254)
The Utah County Children’ Justice Center proposes to create a 24/7/365 pediatric SANE team with community-based advocacy response to provide acute sexual assault care to children 0-18 in two counties. This team approach using a SANE-P nurse and a specially trained community-based victim advocate will respond to all hospitals and the Utah County Children’s Justice Centers. The primary purpose of this expansion of medical forensic care is to meet the medical and psychological needs of the children and the non-offending parents and guardians when sexual abuse or assault is disclosed. By providing an immediate response to a disclosure of sexual abuse or assault the potential to obtain DNA evidence increases, which can potentially improve the ability to hold the perpetrators of child sexual abuse accountable. This program will be located in Utah and Juab counties. The team will respond to cases at one rural critical access hospital, 7 urban/suburban hospitals and will be in place to provide care to a new children’s hospital, currently under construction, is scheduled to open in 2024.
Due to the inability to staff programs 24/7 many Child Advocacy Centers and Hospital-based pediatric sexual assault programs delay examinations they deem as not urgent until they can be scheduled during regular business hours. While this may be appropriate in cases where the disclosed abuse occurred weeks, months or years ago, it does not provide a trauma-informed response to the parents or guardians of the children who make a disclosure. By responding to disclosures with a team consisting of a pediatric SANE nurse and victim advocate, the needs of the parents or guardians can be addressed when they are in acute crisis.
In addition to having SANE nurses and victim advocates, the Utah County Children’s Justice Center will employ a therapist to provide community outreach, patient follow-up and support for CJC staff, victim advocates, community medical providers and other multidisciplinary team members in order to deal with the vicarious trauma that is the result of working with survivors of child abuse and their families. A therapist providing community outreach will help sustain the new program by ensuring that medical providers and other professionals who receive disclosures from abused children have the knowledge to make appropriate referrals for care. The therapist will also improve the ability of the Center to reduce staff turnover by being a regular resource to evaluate the nurses and other staff for vicarious trauma.