Bivona Child Advocacy Center opened its doors in the South Wedge in 2015, but it has been serving the Rochester community since 2004. Bivona provides comprehensive services for children who have experienced abuse in their families. At Bivona they can access the Family Advocacy Program, which provides continuity throughout the process of advocacy. A Family Advocate stays with the children from the beginning until they are no longer needed to coordinate services.
Bivona is an example of the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) model of services. Before such umbrella services were offered, not all services partnered together or communicated with one another. Children had to shuttle between various service providers including law enforcement, child protective services, victim advocacy, and health services, and each of them required children to tell their stories again and again. Repeatedly recounting such events often re-traumatizes survivors of abuse.
“Research shows that repeated questions about traumatic experiences is in fact a reenactment of those experiences and is not good for those children,” said Bivona Child Advocacy Center Executive Director Deb Rosen.
The CAC model brings together all of the service providers that a child would previously have needed to see separately. In addition to protecting children from re-traumatization, the CAC model aims to improve coordination of services so that providers can more effectively identify the truth and pursue avenues of investigation that might not otherwise come to light.
A partnership of 22 organizations, Bivona collaborates with all twelve Monroe County police departments, the District Attorney’s office, the Monroe County Law Department, and Monroe County Child Protective Services (CPS). They provide medical care through Rochester Regional Health and the REACH Program of UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital, usually in Bivona’s on-site medical suite. Catholic Family Center pro-vides home-based services, while Villa of Hope and Linden Oaks Specialized Assessment and Treatment Services provide counseling and mental health care. RESTORE Sexual Assault Services offers sup-port throughout any court proceedings. Bivona is the only CAC serving Monroe County.
“There’s a benefit to having it be a team. To see all these organizations come together and put the needs of the children first is amazing. That kind of culture helps children and families to feel a little more at ease, and whatever needs they have, a professional is available to address those needs,” said Marketing and Communications Specialist Austin Reed.
Law enforcement, CPS, or another organization may refer children to Bivona. A concerned individual can also contact the organization on behalf of a young person via a confidential email or by phone at 585-935-7800.
The two primary goals of Bivona, according to Rosen, are to reduce trauma among children exposed to abuse and to prevent abuse through their education initiatives. Bivona is also focused on providing education to adults who work with children and directly to children in schools.
“Increasing public awareness and the availability of community engagement opportunities is something we are really passionate about because there is strong research that suggests that increased awareness leads to increased prevention,” said Reed.
People who are interested in learn-ing more can contact Bivona or come in for a tour. The best way to learn about this issue is to take a class. Bivona regularly hosts free classes on the prevention of child sexual abuse that are open to any adult. The schedule of classes can be found on their website.