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Abused Children Offered Help

Treatment: A clinic for young victims opens formally today. It provides medical care and psychological counseling and aids detectives.

February 25, 1998|DARRELL SATZMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SYLMAR — A center aimed at treating victims of child abuse and catching their abusers formally opens today at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center.

Tucked away in a small clinic on Olive View's second floor, SCAN, the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Center, has already been operating for several months. Modeled after the Violence and Prevention Program at County-USC Medical Center, it combines the resources of health and police agencies, providing medical care and psychological counseling to children while also aiding detectives, officials said.

Prior to the opening of the center in October, Valley children who had been physically or sexually abused had to travel to downtown or to Santa Monica, often facing long delays and an intimidating array of health and police officials.

"I think it makes a lot of sense to have centers like this where the people are used to dealing with both the emotional and physical effects that come with abuse," said Rona Molodow, a pediatrician who serves as the primary physician at the Olive View SCAN Center.

"Here you have people who understand kids and who like to work with them and who really understand their needs and fears," said Molodow. "We also realize that this is something that can affect the whole family and we take that into account."

Children are referred to the center by social workers, family doctors, police, foster parents and, in some cases, their biological parents.

Open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on an appointment basis, the center is funded out of the Olive View budget, officials said.

Molodow said the SCAN model, in which an abused child deals with the same doctor, social worker and investigator through every step of the process, increases the likelihood of establishing trust and getting to the truth.

In five months at the center, Molodow has treated more than 100 children ranging in age from 10 months to 16 years.

"Every kid is different. Some are so resilient they can come in and calmly tell you their story. Others, though, are not so able" to handle the stress, she said.

According to the Department of Children and Family Services, the county investigated almost 200,000 reports of abuse and neglect of children between February 1996 and February 1997, the last year for which statistics were available. Those investigations included 26,410 for sexual abuse alone and more than 71,000 for physical abuse.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said the Valley's demand for social services is higher than any other area's.

"With its million-and-a-half people and its thousands of children, the Valley is not immune from the physical and sexual abuse of children," said Yaroslavsky.

Yaroslavsky said that SCAN is part of a broader county strategy to improve health care for Valley residents, including rebuilding earthquake-damaged Mid Valley Medical Center and adding new programs.

"SCAN fits into our idea of bringing more services to the people instead of the people having to find the services. Having everything in one place is a more effective way to provide this type of care" Yaroslavsky said.

Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti said that SCAN centers aid in the prosecution of child abuse by making it easier to interview children and give them physical exams.

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