The McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center in Syracuse starts 2014 with some positive changes in both its home and its programs. The center benefited from 90-thousand dollars in grants from the Central New York Community Foundation as well as other gifts and fundraising.
Executive Director Linda Cleary says people need to learn signs that a child is being abused.
"It would be all of a sudden a child that never wet a bed, is now wetting a bed; a child that was very outgoing might all of a sudden be very quiet. Unfortunately so much of child abuse isn't the visible signs. It's not the kid coming to school with black and blue marks. It's the hidden stuff, so very often those kids aren't disclosing. Most children don't disclose until they're an adult."
One of the recent grants will help fund a program to teach the community just that. The Darkness to Light program is a community education project McMahon Ryan will be starting.
"We are doing this in partnership with the YMCA and our long-term goal is to provide the training to 5% of the entire community. 'Darkness to Light' the company believes that 5% is a tipping point. If you can get 5% of people trained in something, that starts a new movement for you."
Cleary explains community generosity has also improved their downtown location, including a play area in the reception area. Their location also includes counseling areas and all government and law enforcement entities under one roof that, which make it easier on the child.
"It means that child can potentially have just one interview. So that if Child Protective Services is interviewing, we've got Law Enforcement and the D-A's office in a viewing room so they can see the interview, but not everybody has to do their own interview. That in itself really decreases the re-traumatizing that child."
Cleary says Onondaga County receives more than 6000 calls of child abuse a year at its hotline: (315) 422-9701 or 1 800-342-3720. McMahon Ryan works on those cases that involve sexual or physical abuse.