A series of high-profile child-abuse deaths capped by a preschooler who died on Christmas 2003 inspired 196-bed Christus Santa Rosa Childrens Hospital in San Antonio to directly address the issue. In surrounding Bexar County, Child Protective Services investigated 17,000 reports of child abuse in 2005 alone; in 18 cases, the child died.
With a $1.5 million grant from the Goldsbury Foundation, the hospital in May 2006 opened the Center for Miracles, an assessment and treatment facility that receives referrals from Child Protective Services, law enforcement and legal experts.
During its first year, the 4,400-square-foot facility helped more than 1,200 abused or neglected children, conducting 510 one-on-one assessments and more than 720 medical consultations. For these efforts, Christus Santa Rosa has received the 2007 Spirit of Excellence Award in the CARES category.
This was an unmet need, says Rose Orsborn, coordinator of the center. We talked to law enforcement, the judiciary, social workers, social service agents, Child Protective Services, and everybody supported the concept.
Because Child Protective Servicesthe most frequent referral sourcehas only 30 days to conduct an investigation, the center must provide a prompt, accurate medical and psycho-social assessment of a childs condition and the best next steps, Orsborn says. We dont give them an appointment two weeks from now, she says. These children have injuries, and they have to be seen in a very short period of time.
The three pediatric specialists who staff and maintain the facility stay up-to-date on the latest research, know what tests to order, and are very willing to give a statement, Orsborn says. Theyre also, of course, very open to testifying in court as to their recommendation. And they train future counselors, social workers, and medical and nursing students on identifying and handling possible child abuse cases.
Next steps for the center include a child abuse crisis hot line, a screening and prevention program for families of babies born at the hospital and online prevention tips for parents. Last May, the center kicked off a fundraising effort called the 1 Million Reasons to End Child Abuse Challenge to enhance its child abuse education and prevention efforts. The Goldsbury Foundation will provide matching grants up to $1 million.
I was impressed by the number of children they had helped in such a short time, says Robert Granger, president and chief executive officer of 190-bed St. Francis Hospital, Columbus, Ga., and the judge for CARES. It plugged them into the system in a broad, holistic way.