Child abuse is any issue involving sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse or neglect. These areas of child maltreatment can uncover layers of secrets and heartache. In child abuse cases, skillful forensic interviews are important to protect innocent individuals and […]
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How to Be Certain about Child Abuse?

by Jill Taylor on October 11, 2013

in Community Involvement

stopChild abuse is any issue involving sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse or neglect. These areas of child maltreatment can uncover layers of secrets and heartache.

In child abuse cases, skillful forensic interviews are important to protect innocent individuals and find guilty culprits. In cases of abuse there can be unclear speculation or gray areas, and it takes work to uncover the truth.

If a child is suspected for abuse, there are a number of people who will work with the child, parent or suspected abusers, in order to uncover the whole story.

Forensic Nurse Sheilah Priori is part of the Forensic Medicine team at McLane Children’s Hospital Scott & White and helps families sort out cases of child abuse.

“Being a forensic nurse is a very rewarding job,” says Priori. “We are in a position to potentially protect a child from continuous abuse and assist law enforcement with a criminal investigation preventing future abuse of other children.”

What is Forensic Nursing?

The forensic nursing staff at McLane Children’s is specialty trained to work beyond medical care. Going further than certified nursing, they receive training on the legal system and skills in identifying injuries, evaluating patients and documenting cases.

“The most important part of forensic nursing is to help prove it is NOT abuse,” says Priori.

“The most important part of forensic nursing is to help prove it is NOT abuse,” says Priori. “Often, because of our specialized training, experience and education, we are able to help families that may be investigated for child abuse prove that these accusations are not supported by medical facts, or may have some other explanation.”

Forensic nurses have a specialized knowledge to help evaluate every child with a systematical, methodical approach, while knowing how to handle sensitive issues.

“We are in a position here at McLane Children’s Hospital to help families, CPS and law enforcement when there is a concern for child maltreatment,” explains Priori.

Who Benefits from Forensic Services?

The forensic nurses are specially trained and certified to help any potential victim of a crime. McLane Children’s Scott & White provides an excellent staff and educational services through the Child Abuse Support Center and sees an average of 50-60 forensic cases a month.

“We are the only forensic program in this surrounding area to offer such a service,” says Priori.

Patients from Darnall, Metroplex, Seton, Coryell Memorial and other outlying hospitals and clinics transfer patients to McLane Children’s for a medical forensic exam. These patients are evaluated in the emergency department or in the inpatient hospital setting.

“About 95% of the sexual abuse cases are seen by our team of forensic nurses. We are specially trained and certified to do these exams,” she explains. “As far as the physical abuse cases, the forensic nurses work with Dr. Erica Ward.”

The number of child abuse cases is disheartening. It takes special attention to help them feel loved, welcomed and safe during this transition. The staff at McLane Children’s help children throughout Central Texas get the answers they need to move forward with their lives.

Why Are Forensics Important?

A child could keep pain hidden for years but when the case is finally exposed, not know where to turn.

Victims of abuse need expert care and comfort while evidence is obtained during the exam. Forensic nurses are positioned in this powerful role and are able to consider the needs of the child.

The child will need help discussing the trauma in a way that is clear and helpful to the case. They will present both physical and psychological evidence that both need to be examined. Forensic nurses have an important role to help children and preserve physical evidence at the same time.

Do You Know Where to Turn?

In a dilemma of child abuse, it can be difficult to be certain if the intent was clearly abuse. There are many factors that go into an analysis and all are done professionally, with the best interests in mind.

To help sort through the clutter, forensic nurses are trained to provide guidance and support throughout the process. It is a resource to parents, children and educating the community.

“Please feel free to contact the forensic program and consider this department a resource to the community,” says Priori. “We are here to help families in need, serve and protect children.”

For more information or to report a case, call 254-935-4051.

Also visit our related blogs including: The Chilling Reality of Child Abuse, How to talk to your child about sexual abuse  and How to reduce your child’s risk of being a victim.

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