Michael’s House is one of 850 Children’s Advocacy Centers across the country serving the most serious, complex cases of child abuse. Providing a comfortable, child-focused environment, the staff at Michael’s House are dedicated to making children feel safe and protected while they receive the help they need.
Dayton Parent spoke to Teresa Wiles, Director, to learn about the services that Michael’s House provides.
Where does the name “Michael’s House” come from?
Michael’s House is named in honor of Michael Mercurio, who passed away unexpectedly in 2007 at the age of 37. Michael devoted his life to improving the lives of others, particularly children. As an endodontist, Michael traveled to Romania each year to give dental care to children in orphanages and in 2006, he was recognized as Rotarian of the Year for his efforts. Today, community individuals and organizations carry Michael’s legacy forward, by working to improve the delivery of services to children who are affected by abuse and neglect.
How do children come to Michael’s House?
Cases of child abuse are referred to Michael’s House by law enforcement, child protective services and hospitals. The center serves children who are victims of physical and sexual abuse, severe neglect, human trafficking and those exposed to severe, chronic violence. Approximately 78% of the cases referred are victims of sexual abuse. In 2017, Michael’s House served nearly 350 children and their non-offending caregivers.
What is the most important thing Michael’s House offers the children they serve?
To understand what a Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) is, you must understand what children face without one. Without a CAC, a child may have to tell the worst story of his or her life over and over again – to doctors, police, lawyers, therapists, investigators and judges. They may have to talk about that traumatic experience in a police station where they think they’re in trouble, or may be asked the wrong questions by a well-meaning teacher or other adult.
At Michael’s House, the child tells their story once to a trained interviewer who knows the right questions to ask in a way that doesn’t re-traumatize them. Then, a team including medical and mental health professionals, law enforcement, prosecution, child protective services, victim advocacy and other professionals, make decisions together about how to help the child. CAC’s offer therapy and medical exams, courtroom preparation, victim advocacy, case management and other services. This is called the multidisciplinary team response and is a core part of the work of CAC’s. Michael’s House is one of 26 accredited centers in Ohio.
How can members of the community help with your mission?
Michael’s House is a resource belonging to the community and its children. Although Dayton Children’s Hospital is the fiscal agent, the center is fully funded through grants, private contributions and in-kind donations. The community can volunteer, contribute through our wish list, hold a fundraiser on behalf of the center, make a monetary contribution or help spread the word that such a service exists.
What advice would you give to someone who suspects a case of child abuse or neglect?
We would always encourage the community to report a suspected case of child abuse and neglect to your local children’s services agency or the police. A child is depending on adults to help and to know what to do. If you are not sure who to call or how to proceed, Michael’s House can be contacted to help guide you to the right agency.
To find out more, visit www.michaelshousecac.org.