Ten-year-old Carla** had been a victim of sexual abuse for more than three years by the time she came to Philadelphia Children’s Alliance. Carla’s 18-year-old cousin babysat frequently and used it as an opportunity to abuse her.
One day, Carla’s younger brother walked in on the abuse and told their mother, Marie**. Marie was devastated; as a parent, she felt it was her job to keep her children safe, and she had let Carla down. The news shook her, and she worried about her family recovering. Marie called the police, and they referred the family to Philadelphia Children’s Alliance.
From there, the Alliance took charge.
The first visit began in the Alliance’s child-friendly waiting room and included a developmentally and culturally sensitive forensic interview with Carla. Carla’s interview was recorded, so she would only have to tell her story once. Next Carla had a brief exam at the Alliance’s on-site medical clinic, staffed by pediatric abuse specialists from St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The doctor assured Carla that her body was perfectly healthy.
Carla and Marie were introduced to one of the Alliance’s Family Advocates, who assessed the family’s needs and promised to manage their case and maintain a relationship throughout the entire process. As they left after that first busy day, Carla chose a stuffed animal from a large trunk full of toys. An Alliance tradition, children are offered a stuffed animal to provide a little comfort during this stressful time; often children keep their furry friends throughout therapy and court.
After that, the Alliance maintained a close relationship with the family. Carla participated in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy with one of our clinicians, and Marie attended a 10-week Caregiver Support Group run by staff. When the time came to prepare for their legal battle, the Court School Program provided confidence and an understanding of the court process. Two years later, their case concluded, Carla and Marie completed their experience with the Alliance with an abundance of gratitude for the team of professionals that placed them on a clear path to healing.
**Names have been changed to protect the identity of the actual persons involved.