The Children’s Center for Hope & Healing will hold its first educational conference today for people who work with young victims of sexual abuse.
The conference aims to provide resources for professionals, as well as community leaders, who often encounter sexually abused children, said Rebecca Davis, executive director of the center.
"Sexual abuse is just so much more common than people realize," Davis said.
The Children’s Center for Hope & Healing, formerly known as the Family Relations Program, is a nonprofit organization that offers free therapeutic services to children ages 4 to 17 who are the victims of sexual abuse. The agency also offers Project Pathfinder, a program dedicated to treating children and youths with sexual behavior problems.
"This is our 25th year in the community," Davis said. "We have a lot of expertise to offer the wider community about the topic."
The idea for the conference came about because, over the years, many professionals have called the center for help.
"We get a lot of requests for information and for help from other therapists around, and they call on our staff a lot to train them in some of the techniques that we use," Davis said. "We decided this was a great thing for us to do. We’re very excited about this great opportunity to share a little bit of what we’ve learned through 25 years."
The keynote speaker will be Cheryl Lanktree, a psychologist and the executive director of Miller Children’s Hospital Abuse and Violence Intervention Center, a multidisciplinary outpatient center in Long Beach, Calif. She also serves as a professor at the University of Southern California.
The daylong educational conference is at the Georgia Mountains Center. It will feature presentations by state and local experts on topics such as forensic interviews, the media impact on sexuality and therapeutic interventions for traumatized children.
"It’s common for (abused children) to have a whole host of trauma issues," Davis said, such as insomnia, nightmares and trouble focusing. "Some of the therapists will be teaching how to help kids deal with trauma symptoms."
More than 75 mental health professionals, school counselors, attorneys, professionals and volunteers with Court Appointed Special Advocates and the Department of Juvenile Justice will be in attendance.
Registration is available at the door and begins at 8:30 a.m. The cost is $95 and includes lunch. The cost for those attending the program for continuing education credit is $125.
"People are really, really excited," Davis said. "We’ve had a great response."