Mission Children’s Hospital Partnership with Mountain Child Advocacy Center Enhances Care for Babies and Children Who Are Victims of Neglect and Abuse

Boy with blocksBy Carolyn Comeau

The safety and quality of life of Buncombe County’s babies and children are dependent on the adults around them. But sadly, over 4,000 children in Buncombe County alone experience neglect and physical or sexual abuse annually.

– 1 in 5 children will experience abuse or neglect.
– 50 percent of abuse victims are age six or under.
– Over 90 percent of them know their abuser, 75 percent of whom are relatives.

Partnership Enhances Care, Improves Outcomes

Mission Children’s Hospital is committed to delivering the best treatment to children traumatized by abuse, and realizes this goal by working with longtime nonprofit partner, the Mountain Child and Advocacy Center (MCAC). [1] Housed within Mission Children’s Hospital since 2016, the organization provides vital crisis intervention services to victims, a comprehensive abuse education and prevention program that teaches K-4 students about what abuse is and how to report it, and advocacy services for victims and their families that connect them to medical and behavioral health services, legal aid and social services.

Cindy Brown, MD, a pediatrician at Mission Children’s Hospital who works with child abuse victims, noted that the partnership with MCAC means these most vulnerable patients receive more comprehensive care. “My clinician colleagues and the MCAC team are amazing. Families need us to offer care, support and comfort when the worst thing one can imagine has happened. Before MCAC was here in the hospital, I’d evaluate a child and send them and their family off to distant services. Now, I know these children can walk right next door and receive the latest evidence-based therapy at no charge, and begin to heal,” said Dr. Brown. She added that this collaborative model not only enhances care for patients, but leads to better outcomes.

It Takes a Village to Tackle Abuse

“Early childhood trauma can derail a child’s life,” said Geoff Sidoli, MCAC’s Executive Director, “but if children can receive our services, they have a good chance of recovering well, thanks to their natural resilience and family support.” Sidoli deeply values the talented multidisciplinary team MCAC works with, which in addition to Mission Children’s Hospital physicians, includes law enforcement, forensic interviewers, the District Attorney’s office, and child protective and social services agencies. “No single agency can address this problem effectively,” said Sidoli. “It must be a team effort that also includes victims’ invested caregivers and community members willing to step up and report suspected abuse.”

MCAC serves children from many different cultural, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and according to their data, an astounding 89 percent of children who receive their services show a reduction in trauma symptoms. “We must remember too,” said Sidoli, “that we don’t just work with children, but with families.”

“Child abuse is difficult to think about,” admitted Dr. Brown, “but we must be aware. We can all advocate for children in some way, whether that’s as treatment providers or simply making ourselves available as safe adults kids can talk to.”

An Opportunity to Better Children’s Lives

Mission Health is a diamond-level sponsor for the second annual MCAC Dancing With The Local Stars fundraiser, which pairs professional dancers with community leaders for an evening of entertainment and agility. Due to COVID-19, this year’s September 27 event is being reimagined virtually as a viewable film. Supporters will access an exclusive link to see the show, participant interviews and more, and make it possible for more children to receive needed services free of charge.

Mission Health’s own William Hathaway, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the North Carolina Division of HCA Healthcare/Mission Health, is a participant this year. To learn more about DWTLS, click here. [2]

Cindy Brown, MD, is a pediatrician at Mission Children’s Hospital.

For more information about pediatric services at Mission Children’s Hospital, visit missionchildrens.org. [3]