The Susquehanna County Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse returned to its fall conference “Children’s Issues in a Changing World” on Thursday, Nov. 3, with the day-long event held at headquarters of Susquehanna County Interfaith in Montrose.
This year, the conference focus was “The Kids are Not OK,” and speakers addressed childhood trauma, child sexual exploitation, social media safety, suicide prevention and warning signs, and mental health needs.
Janine Fortney, director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties, said the annual Coalition conference highlights prevailing trends and topics that member organizations are reporting that they are seeing. The conference, she said, “is really effective in how – as a community that does work together – see what is available and what the needs are.”
Interfaith director Cindy Beeman first become acquainted with the Coalition years ago when she helmed a local Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. “There’s really a lot more resources (in Susquehanna County) than people realize,” she said. Member organizations belonging to the Coalition, “help each other to help families and, in turn, makes the community stronger,” Beeman said.
Fortney and trauma therapist Andrea Venesky focused remarks on childhood trauma – providing examples of traumatic events and the effects of trauma. The group also reviewed the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) study findings, assessment and how it ties to children.
“The study is one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect, household challenges and later-life health and well-being,” according to the CDC website. Study findings include the effect trauma, abuse and neglect have on a developing brain.
Fortney and Venesky also spoke about behaviors exhibited by children with trauma and trauma-informed support for children.
Trauma-Informed Support for Children includes a seven-pronged approach: create safety; regulate the nervous system; build a connected relationship; support development of coherent narrative; practice “power-with” strategies (empowerment, collaboration, choice and voice); build social emotional and resiliency skills; and foster post-traumatic growth.
The “Human Trafficking of Children” portion of the conference was led by Jenn Rodzinka, of the Southern Tier Human Trafficking Task. The task force covers a seven-county region and is made up of members of federal, state and local law enforcement, the US attorney’s office; Dept. of Homeland Security; Dept. of Labor; addiction groups; faith-based organizations; non-profits and other community advocates.
Human trafficking includes both sex and labor trafficking and is use of force, fraud or coercion to compel someone to provide labor or sexual acts in exchange for something of value, including food, shelter, money or drugs, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR). When the victim is a minor, however, the use of force, fraud or coercion is not required for the act to be considered trafficking. It also does not require the relocation of someone from one place to another.
The conference also focused on social media in a section led by Andrew Granick of the Women’s Resource Center and Kimberly Tuttle of Barnes-Kasson County Hospital. Diane Hawley-Wurth, of the Susquehanna County Suicide Awareness Initiative, led a talk on suicide prevention.
Dominic Vangarelli, of Integrative Counseling Services, capped off the day’s speakers, with a presentation on “Strong Mental Health.”
As a clinician, Vangarelli spoke about both the healthy and problematic impacts of social media and “red flags” of when screen time is having a negative impact on children.
To deal with stressors, he encourages clients to get outdoors, limit screentime, along with teaching coping skills and resiliency, along with relaxation techniques that include breathing exercises.
Children’s Advocacy Center of Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties: 570-823-5144
Women’s Resource Center: 570-278-1800
Susquehanna County Interfaith: 570-278-1776
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: Call 988
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: 1-800-THE-LOST