Our View: ‘Child-safe’

Posted: June 27, 2013

Celebrating its 10th birthday, Winchester’s ChildSafe Center is true to its name. It’s a place where young victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence feel safe — safe to tell their sad and graphic stories and, since August 2012, to receive treatment that allows them to regain a semblance of their lost childhood.

“These kids, they’re resilient,” says Kelly Bober who, as executive director of this child advocacy center (CAC), sees about 200 children come through the door each year.

“I know by the time they come to see me, intervention has started. There’s hope. They can still play and laugh. We try not to focus on the trauma, but the promise of what life could be for these kids.”

Ms. Bober is referring to the center’s treatment component. For years, until the treatment program started, ChildSafe’s focus was forensic — that is, providing a haven for abused children to describe their ordeal, once preferably, to a multidisciplinary team of “stakeholders” (law enforcement, legal, medical, etc.).

The center serves the entire Northern Valley — the City of Winchester and Frederick, Clarke, Shenandoah, Warren, and Rappahannock counties — as well as parts of West Virginia (e.g., Hampshire County) closer to Winchester than to the CAC in Martinsburg.

Interestingly enough, Winchester is the lone locality with its own multidisciplinary team, though Shenandoah County — whose social services director, Carla Taylor, served longtime in that capacity in Winchester — is “going that way,” Ms. Bober says.

Funding for ChildSafe, located in the Snapp Foundry building that is now part of Our Health’s Cameron Street campus, comes from myriad sources, Ms. Bober said, including Valley Health, “some state funding,” private foundation grants, and fee-for-service charges to jurisdictions without multidisciplinary teams.

At the center of it all is Ms. Bober, a forensic interviewer who previously worked at a CAC in Norfolk. The prevalence of sexual child abuse, she says, “more than makes me sad; it makes me angry.”

Nonetheless, the center’s treatment program offers her an opportunity to marvel at kids who come to her with all the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder — flashbacks, “intrusive thoughts” — and work their way to a “beautiful” graduation ceremony, in which documentation of their stories is shredded and placed in balloons, which are released, allowed to drift away.

There’s no better metaphor for the center’s high calling.