CARES Northwest honored as Outstanding Volunteer Group by AFP
In an average month, more than 140 children are received at CARES Northwest for an abuse evaluation. The collaborative community-based medical program responds to victims of sexual or physical abuse, neglect, or exposure to domestic violence. A medical evaluation and forensic interview can last several hours during which time volunteers play a crucial role keeping siblings occupied and adults calm. The children and families who walk through the door are experiencing a frightening time in their life with many emotions such as worry, shame, betrayal, anger, fear, and sadness. CARES Northwest coordinates medical, mental health, child protective services, and law enforcement agencies to ensure that children obtain needed professional services in one location.
Volunteers at CARES Northwest understand the delicate and stressful circumstances which precipitate a visit to CARES Northwest. The volunteer program is comprised primarily of devoted undergraduate students from regional colleges and universities who have deep compassion and significant abilities to support children, youth, and adults exposed to trauma. They represent a range of academic disciplines including pre-med, pre-nursing, pre-law, social work, counseling, psychology, criminal justice, education, social service, and public health.
"Our goal is to help children and families heal from the impact of trauma. We do that in a number of ways, including creating a safe, child-friendly environment; with a specially trained staff with expertise in child abuse evaluation and treatment; by collaborating with community partners so families can assess multiple helping professionals in one location; by providing services regardless of the families' ability to pay; and by engaging the community in the work we do, because without our community of caring volunteers and supporters, we wouldn't be able to provide the level of collaborative, comprehensive care that child abuse victims and their families need and deserve," said Debby Kernan, Volunteer Program Director.
Since 2000, when volunteer statistics began being tracked, 257 volunteers have contributed 26,153 hours and served 12,207 evaluated children, 236 trauma therapy clients, and 5,529 siblings and family members of evaluated children, totaling 17,972 individuals.
"Some of our volunteers are also actively involved with clinical research or data gathering for current analytical studies supervised by clinical staff. Another volunteer, of 18 years, devotes her talent and energies to administrative support activities. Others spend countless hours creating beautiful quilts for the children seen at CARES Northwest, so that every child gets to choose their own quilt at the end of their child abuse evaluation," Kernan said.
All volunteer applicants, from their initial interview and clinic tour, increase their awareness and understanding of prevention, intervention and treatment of child abuse as well as the importance of trauma-informed care in a multidisciplinary clinic. Through extensive volunteer orientation and training, volunteers develop appreciation for professional ethics and boundaries, standards of care, confidentiality, cultural sensitivity, evidenced-based practice, vicarious trauma, and clinical excellence.
"Parents know their children are protected and comforted by our volunteers, which gives them freedom to focus with our clinicians and community partners," Kernan said. "Most importantly, volunteers know they are contributing to our families' hope and healing."
Read about the other 2018 Philanthropy Award honorees at publications.pmgnews.com/fpubs/2018/philanthropy_awards_2018/mobile/index.html