Child abuse center rededicated after a major expansion Listening Post to provide 'friendly setting' for victims to 'tell their stories'

October 27, 1998|By Jill Hudson Neal | Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

Dozens of child welfare advocates attended a rededication ceremony yesterday for the Listening Place, where victims of child abuse in Howard County are interviewed and treated.

Once known as the Child Advocacy Center, the facility on Rogers Avenue in Ellicott City underwent a 1,300-square-foot expansion and renovation to provide a space where police, social workers and doctors can talk to and treat young victims of physical or sexual abuse.

The center, once a small single-family house, has four new offices, two child interview rooms and a new examination room where a pediatrician can examine children who have been abused.

During yesterday's ribbon-cutting ceremony, center coordinator Angela Simmons said the improved building is a "friendly setting where victims of child abuse can come and tell their stories."

Cheerful rooms

Simmons said the bright, cheerful rooms were designed to reassure youngsters who must tell strangers details of their traumatic experiences.

The interview rooms were redesigned in a child-friendly way -- small chairs and tables, posters hung on the walls at a child's eye level -- and the large medical examination room comes with stuffed animals and other toys.

"It's great what this place does for children and their families," said County Executive Charles I. Ecker. "It's really great that it looks like a house instead of an institution. It's not a scary place."

County Councilman Dennis R. Schrader said Howard residents "can't do enough for the little children who come to the Listening Place."

"Sitting on the County Council, we approve a lot of projects," Schrader said. "I think this one is very worthwhile."

Important purpose

Former police Chief James N. Robey said the center's location serves an important purpose.

"We needed to expand the center in this location because it's close to the police and to the courts," Robey said.

Since its establishment in 1991, the Listening Place has streamlined child abuse treatment by bringing together social services, police, the state's attorney's office and other victim services organizations such as the Health Department and the Sexual Trauma Treatment, Advocacy and Recovery Center.

266 abuse cases last year

Last year, the center handled 266 cases of child abuse. Simmons said the number appears to have been increasing 10 percent each year over the past few years.

Dr. Tim Doran, the center's pediatrician, said the center needed to expand to accommodate the growing numbers of children and to provide more office space for its 14 workers.

"We just really needed more space," he said. "If you have a facility that's too small, no one's going to want to work here."

Pub Date: 10/27/98

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