New UMN center opened to help neglected children

The Otto Bremer Trust Center for Safe and Healthy Children will offer clinical services, research and advocacy for families who have faced traumatic experiences.

by Gwiwon Jason Nam

A new center at the University of Minnesota is dedicated to providing care to neglected and abused children.

The Otto Bremer Trust Center for Safe and Healthy Children opened a new dedicated space to care for children and families affected by abuse and neglect. The center held an open house March 7.

The center will support families and caregivers coping with traumatic situations and includes pediatricians, a nurse practitioner, social workers and a research coordinator. A certified therapy dog will also be on-site.

“Our hope is that our center will provide children and adolescents with trauma-focused service delivery to provide them with a medical examination [and] a comprehensive psychosocial assessment,” said Program Coordinator Rebecca Foell, a licensed social worker.

The center started with a single exam room and medical provider at the Masonic Children’s Hospital four years ago. Until this year, they did not have their own dedicated office or clinical space, but had offices throughout the Fairview complex. The team saw patients in a specialty clinic, Foell said.

After receiving a $2.5 million gift for the program in December 2015 from the Otto Bremer Trust, a private Minnesota charity, Dr. Nancy Harper grew the program. Harper is the medical director for the center and an associate professor of pediatrics with a specialty in child abuse pediatrics.

At least 1 in 7 children in the United States have experienced child abuse or neglect in the past year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The center added additional medical providers and staff to serve more children and families, Harper said.

Foell said the center has experts from child abuse pediatricians to health providers who work with children and adolescents that have experienced maltreatment. They also have social workers experienced in working in the field of child abuse and neglect. They also refer patients to outside providers as needed.

“Our new center provides not only a clinic space for children and families to come [to], but serves as an educational and advocacy resource,” Harper said.

They provide education and teaching to the University and broader community, including law enforcement, child protective services, attorneys, social workers, counselors, psychologists and others, she said.

“[The center will provide] resources for families who have experienced abuse and resources for staff who work with these families on how to stay resilient,” Allison Hudson, clinic manager for the Pediatric Specialty Care Explorer Clinic that works closely with the center, said in an email to the Minnesota Daily.

In 2017, Minnesota child protection agencies received over 84,000 reports of child maltreatment — a 4.8 percent increase from 2016, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

“The center continues to create systems to make sure that all children in the area have access to excellent care and receive the quality of care each child deserves,” Hudson said. “They continue to bring awareness to our organization and [to] the community about this issue and work tremendously hard to advocate for the children they serve.”