The Monongalia County Child Advocacy Center has seen a decrease in the number of referrals since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that isn’t stopping it from helping families in Monongalia County.
Dr. Laura Capage, executive director for MCCAC, suspects the decrease in referrals has to do with kids not being in the classroom.
“I think families were very focused on staying inside, and I think the normal protectors out there that monitor children were not able to have contact with children.
Teachers, bus drivers, after-school programs — all of those people that on a daily basis are keeping eyes on children weren’t able to have daily contact. I will commend the school system. They certainly try to keep tabs on kids and check in on kids, which was wonderful.”
The Monongalia County Child Advocacy Center coordinates the efforts of child protection staff, law enforcement professionals, family advocates, medical experts and mental health professional in one place.
Services, which are free, are aimed at reducing trauma so children and families can heal.
Capage said just because referrals aren’t coming in, doesn’t mean children aren’t facing traumatice situations.
“One thing I think is important for the community to keep in mind that while most people were trying to stay safe at home … for many children, that was the least safe place possible. We’ve been very mindful of that.”
She said they still had to help families, even if it meant new ways to conduct normal daily processes.
“A lot of our activities are done using telehealth right now, which is very important,” she said. “That way, we can continue services. We never closed our doors. We never stopped service delivery. We kept going. Critical cases had to be seen face-to-face, and we just used PPE. Non-critical cases, we were able to continue with telehealth.
“As things have relaxed in our community, we are able to do a little bit more with kiddos in our office. But obviously, we are very careful following CDC guidelines.”
Capage also added that they have been trying to help the community overall, not just their clients.
“This has added a lot of stress to families in the community,” she said. “Many of those families are already under a lot of stress. So, we’ve really opened up our phone lines to the entire community.
“If parents are wanting some tips about how to support their children, how to talk to their children, or parents themselves are just feeling stressed, like they want to talk to somebody, just because of all the added tension created by what we’ve all had to do for the past few months, we are a place that anybody in the community can call to just receive some support and get a listening ear.”
The MCCAC is also hosting “Girl’s Night In: A Month-Long Mission” over the next month to provide education to the community about child abuse prevention and keeping children safe. It also acts as a fundraiser for the agency.
The MCCAC is at 909 Green Bag Road. Info: 304-598-0344. Donations are accepted at http://www.moncocac.org/.
By Harley Benda