TEDI BEAR is one of hundreds of children's advocacy centers throughout the United States. Children's advocacy centers not only provide medical evaluation and care for children, but help to facilitate cooperation between the other healthcare, legal, social service, law enforcement, and mental health services that children need when they have been abused or neglected. This cooperation is based on a model that was developed at the National Children's Advocacy Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Mental health services at child advocacy centers are provided by specially trained professionals who understand the psychological trauma that affects many abused and neglected children. This is often one of the most serious effects of abuse and neglect. TEDI BEAR's therapists primarily use Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (pdf), which has been shown to be effective in helping abused children to heal.
When children and caregivers are referred to TEDI BEAR following alleged abuse, the child typically receives child advocacy services, a forensic interview, and a medical examination. Many children and their family members also receive therapy at TEDI BEAR. These four services are described more fully below.
The child and his or her caregiver first meet with a trained Child Life Specialist who will describe the assessment process, answer any questions, and help to ensure that the child's needs are met. At first, many children and caregivers are nervous about going through the assessment process. The Child Life Specialist can usually help them to feel more relaxed, confident, and supported.
In most cases, the child is interviewed to learn more about the alleged abuse. This interview is conducted by a TEDI BEAR staff member with special training in how children of different ages think, feel, and communicate. It is recorded on video so that the child will not have to repeat this painful information more than necessary during the investigation process. With the child's and caregiver's consent, the interview may also be observed over closed-circuit television by law enforcement and other appropriate professionals. The child's caregiver is interviewed separately. The interview may also be used to help with the child's medical evaluation.
A medical examination identifies any signs of physical trauma, ensures that any lab work or other tests are performed, and evaluates the child's overall health. This exam is conducted by a pediatrician or a pediatric nurse practitioner with special training in child abuse evaluation.
Many children and their non-offending caregivers benefit from therapy to heal from childhood trauma. TEDI BEAR has therapists whose special training in child abuse allows them to help victims and family members to resolve the trauma and move forward in their recovery.
Much of TEDI BEAR's work focuses on training others to better address child abuse. These include our colleagues in healthcare, social services, law enforcement, and other professions, as well as students, families, and other people who care about kids. TEDI BEAR also works throughout eastern North Carolina to bring training, prevention, and follow up services to communities.
Community-based multi-disciplinary teams serve children who are alleged victims of child sexual abuse throughout eastern North Carolina. This team approach facilitates collaboration among professionals from various disciplines within each community. The goal is to enhance the system's response to child abuse, and to facilitate recovery for child abuse victims.
TEDI BEAR helps train others at East Carolina University who are beginning careers in caring for children. For example, physicians who are completing their residency training in pediatrics regularly spend time at TEDI BEAR learning how to identify and treat the effects of child abuse and neglect. Similarly, students enrolled in ECU's Child Life programs may perform their internship and practicums at TEDI BEAR. TEDI BEAR staff also provide training for ECU students enrolled in nursing, dentistry, social work, and criminal justice programs to help them better understand and prevent child abuse.
TEDI BEAR staff also teach an ECU course, Introduction to Child Maltreatment (CHE 2999), which is offered through the College of Human Ecology. The course is intended to be the first element of a more comprehensive Child Advocacy Studies Training ("CAST") program at ECU.
TEDI BEAR's educators provide training in child sexual abuse recognition, response, and prevention for professionals and non-professionals at schools, churches, day care centers, mental health agencies, and many other organizations. This training uses the Stewards of Children curriculum, and is provided at no charge. Nurses, educators, therapists, social workers, law enforcement professionals and others can use the training to help meet their continuing education requirements.