Child abuse is a public health issue affecting children, families, and communities. In 2017, more than 674,000 children were victims of child maltreatment, and 1,700 children died from child abuse nationwide. In Minnesota alone, there were more than 32,000 alleged victims who had at least one reported instance of child abuse, and 24 deaths – that’s a child fatality rate of approximately two per 100,000 children, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

“This is an issue that affects us all. The University of Minnesota has found a way to truly be a unique resource for our community and children,” said Rebecca Foell, MSW, LICSW Program Coordinator, Otto Bremer Trust Center for Safe and Healthy Children, University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. “Our Center provides trauma-focused medical and psychosocial services to families who have experienced child abuse and neglect with the ultimate goal of supporting families’ healing and recovery.

The Otto Bremer Trust Center for Safe and Healthy Children has recently opened a new, dedicated space to care for children and families affected by all types of abuse and neglect. The Center started with a single exam room and medical provider at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. But in just four years time after receiving a transformative gift from the Otto Bremer Trust, the team and the space has grown to meet the needs of children and caregivers in Minnesota for trauma-informed comprehensive care.

“Our vision and mission includes serving children and families affected by trauma and violence in a trauma-informed, safe space. Our new Center provides not only a clinic space for chidlren and families to come, but serves as an educational and advocacy resource,” said Nancy Harper, MD, Medical Director, Otto Bremer Trust Center for Safe and Healthy Children, who is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and sub-specialty certified in Child Abuse Pediatrics. Dr. Harper has national and international expertise in child maltreatment and is invested in education and awareness.

Dr. Harper has developed a dedicated staff consisting of a program coordinator, child abuse pediatrician, pediatric nurse practitioner, research coordinator, clinical social worker, fellowship coordinator, executive assistant, and a child abuse pediatrics fellow. The Center staff, which also includes a certified therapy dog, have extensive experience working with this vulnerable population.

Experts like those listed above continue to hone the skills they need as well as share their expertise, to properly identify and respond to all types of child and family maltreatment including physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or neglect. One such event is the Child Abuse Summit, hosted by the University of Minnesota Medical School, at the end of the month (April 24th to April 26th) which is designed to provide professionals from all disciplines with this knowledge, tools, and skills. More than 250 professionals are expected to attend this summit.

April is also Child Abuse Prevention Month.