Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Finding SafeSpot in COVID-19 Time

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Finding SafeSpot in COVID-19 Time

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Child abuse occurs in every demographic of the population, and it has many forms. Every day in America, children as a group endure physical and sexual abuse, they are exploited by pornographers and sex traffickers, they become collateral victims of drug abuse, and they are witnesses to violent crimes. Fortunately, SafeSpot Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) of Fairfax County provides critical recovery services to these young victims while safeguarding their rights, and SafeSpot’s presence is especially vital during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Protecting children is the heart of every CAC, and the mission of SafeSpot, a nationally recognized CAC, is to coordinate the investigation, prosecution, and treatment of child abuse. SafeSpot relies on multidisciplinary teams of professionals from the child-protective and victim-advocacy services, the law enforcement and prosecution agencies, and the medical and mental health providers in Fairfax County to shorten the timeline between victims’ trauma and Recovery.

Prior to SafeSpot’s inception, social-service and criminal-justice systems in Fairfax County often failed to coordinate their responses to child maltreatment cases, which deprived victims of basic services and prolonged their stress and emotional pain through a series of redundant interactions with system officials. After enduring the trauma of abuse, children were forced to recount their experiences in multiple, separate interviews with investigators and social-service professionals.

SafeSpot’s unification of Fairfax County resources has made the response to child trauma powerful and efficient. However, these days SafeSpot is facing a new challenge: balancing two public health issues. While continuing to respond to reports of child abuse, which is a persistent public health concern, SafeSpot is also successfully reacting to the shifting landscape of child trauma during the COVID-19 pandemic. SafeSpot is providing strategic in-person services at this point, conducting forensic interviews in situations where children are currently experiencing abuse. However, SafeSpot has dramatically increased its use of technology, with many multidisciplinary teams conducting their meetings via secure Zoom teleconferences and aggressively implementing tele-mental health services for children and families. SafeSpot has a family resource page for COVID-19 at www.safespotfairfax.org.

Trauma impacts both children and their families, and SafeSpot believes that resilience is the path to healing. Collaboration with investigators, evidence-based therapy and forensic interviews, and a dedicated team in Fairfax County ensure that children and families have a chance to heal. Children in Fairfax County are getting the care, treatment, and justice that they deserve.

Michele Thames