To the editor of THE EAGLE:
April is Child Abuse Awareness Month! Since September of 2013, I have had the privilege of working as an MSW Clinical Intern at Berkshire County Kids’ Place and Violence Prevention Center. It is an agency that encompasses a caring, compassionate staff which provides therapeutic as well as other services to child survivors of violence and their non-offending family members, in a warm and friendly environment.
The Kids’ Place is a private, non-profit, child advocacy center accredited by the National Children’s Alliance. Its mission is to "provide an interdisciplinary, cooperative team approach to address the needs of children subjected to violence as victims or as witnesses and to their non-offending family members." Clients become involved with The Kids’ Place primarily through the Berkshire district attorney’s office and the Department of Children and Families. They employ a multi-disciplinary team approach (SAIN), and once an allegation of abuse has been received, an interview will occur at The Kids’ Place so that the child only has to tell his or her story once, minimizing additional trauma to the child and non-offending family members. A coordinator employed by the Berkshire district attorney is housed at The Kids’ Place to coordinate the services and the SAIN team.
The Kids’ Place is the only agency of its kind in Berkshire County. One of the services The Kids’ Place provides is a pediatric sexual assault nurse examiner housed at the agency. She is employed by the state and is the only nurse in Berkshire County approved to conduct developmentally appropriate physical exams and collect time-sensitive forensic evidence. Furthermore, the organization offers the Safe Berkshires Program, which is in collaboration with the Elizabeth Freeman Center, to provide counseling and therapy to domestically abused women and their children. They also provide violence prevention and education outreach programs to the schools and communities to bring awareness to global issues of child abuse and domestic violence that is pertinent to all communities.
In 2013, The Kids’ Place provided free services to approximately 600 children and families. The agency receives funding from state and federal grants including the Berkshire and Northern Berkshire United Way, local foundations, and numerous individual and business supporters throughout the community. To fulfill its funding requirements, The Kids’ Place annually raises $170,000 by organizing fund-raisers such as Jimmy’s Ride and the Annual Gala to fund services not covered by other monies. Its fund-raising continues with the ninth Annual Race to Stop Child Abuse 5K Run/Walk on April 12 in which a new "Colors for Kids" one mile fun run/walk for kids and Family Fun Fest have been added.
On May 1, the third annual conference on child abuse prevention, intervention, and treatment will take place at the Country Club of Pittsfield. If you are interested in volunteering or participating in any of these events, please call 499-2800 or visit online at www.kidsplaceonline.org for more information. Your support will enable this vital agency to continue doing what matters most -- help treat the needs of children experiencing the trauma of abuse and work to prevent child abuse in Berkshire communities.