Experts in child abuse providing comprehensive care
Medical providers such as physicians, nurse practitioners, and nurses specializing in child abuse pediatrics provide services on-site to evaluate and address medical and physical needs. The Red River Children’s Advocacy Center believes that all children who have been abused or neglected deserve to have access to a medical exam. Through a partnership with the Sanford Health System in Fargo and the Altru Health System in Grand Forks, we have specially trained healthcare professionals who provide comprehensive forensic medical exams. The medical exams identify any medical issues that need attention (such as sexually transmitted infections, fractures, etc.) and provide reassurance to the caregiver and the child regarding any concerns they might have about the child’s body. The medical exam is also an opportunity to identify the need for referrals and other care or services that the child or family might not have otherwise recognized or sought. The medical exam is completed in a child-led, non-traumatic, head to toe approach, which is sensitive to each child’s emotional and physical state. Exams are completed at the Altru Pediatrics Clinic in Grand Forks, the Sanford Children’s CARE Clinic in Fargo, and the Sanford Emergency Center in Fargo as needed for acute concerns.
Any child or adolescent who discloses abuse may be referred for a medical evaluation. Regardless of how long ago the assault occurred, it is important that child and adolescent victims receive a comprehensive medical exam to ensure that they are healthy. It is also important that child and adolescent victims attend all follow up appointments and complete all follow up laboratory testing recommendations. Timely evaluations are particularly important for sexual abuse that occurred within the past 72 hours. In these cases, the medical provider may obtain evidence gathered from the evaluation if appropriate.
Caregivers are welcome to be in the room with the child if that is the child’s preference. Many children and adolescents prefer privacy; in these cases a trained professional chaperones the exam with the medical provider to ensure appropriate care is provided. The medical evaluations are sensitive to the child’s physical and emotional state and a child will not be forced or held down in order to complete the exam. Discussing with your child that a medical exam is an important part of caring for their body in making sure that their body is growing healthy and strong, and consistently giving the message that the child is in charge of their body, even during the exam, can help decrease anxiety about the medical evaluation.
The medical provider will update the caregiver regarding any findings of the child’s evaluation and discuss any recommendations or follow up that needs to happen. In addition, the medical provider will communicate the results of the evaluation to the rest of the multidisciplinary team as appropriate.