Agencies centralize response to child abuse

Hopkins site operates as hub for suspected victims

May 15, 2002|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

All suspected child abuse victims will be taken to the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Emergency Room for examination and detailed interviews as part of an effort to build stronger cases against their alleged abusers, officials announced yesterday.

The children will receive treatment and aid under new protocols set up by the pediatric emergency room at the Children's Center, the Police Department, the state's attorney's office and the Department of Social Services, officials said.

"Working together, we can get officers back on the streets faster, build stronger cases against those who do the unthinkable to innocent children and help families get the support services they need," said Dr. Allen Walker, director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at the center.

The center treats about 900 cases of suspected abuse every year.

The idea behind the protocols, which have been in place for several months, is to make sure all elements of a child abuse case are coordinated and well-documented. The partnership between the agencies started four years ago. In January, Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris signed an order directing all officers to bring victims of suspected child abuse to the Children's Center.

Also yesterday, Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy said a newly created unit will handle all child abuse, elder abuse and felony domestic violence cases. The Felony Family Violence Division began operation May 1. Jessamy noted the link between domestic violence and child abuse, and said victims will be better served by consolidating all the cases in one unit.

"Research shows that child abuse happens at much higher rates in homes where domestic violence is occurring," Jessamy said.

Assistant State's Attorney Julie Drake, who heads the new division, pointed to the case against Michael Cole as an example of the new approach. Cole is scheduled to stand trial on Aug. 21 on charges that he beat his girlfriend and abused her 3-year-old son.

Drake said investigators often find that when they question women about domestic violence, they discover that the children are also being abused.

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