Sparrow on the front lines in the battle against child abuse

Stephen Guertin, M.D., Director of the Sparrow Children’s Center

Published: April 13, 2016

While April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month, for Sparrow Caregivers it’s a daily, year-round effort.

Stephen Guertin, M.D., Director of the Sparrow Children’s Center, describes Sparrow’s strategy as a multi-pronged approach aimed at prevention, treatment and education.

“Our number one goal is to make sure children are protected and/or treated,” Dr. Guertin says. “Our second goal is to achieve justice and prevent abuse from happening again.”

The effort begins with Sparrow’s Child Abuse Clinic, where 200-250 children are diagnosed and treated each year. The clinic, in operation since 1983, accepts referrals from police agencies, pediatricians and protective services workers.

“We don’t work in isolation,” Guertin says. “We bring together agencies from throughout the community.”

Caregivers at the Clinic, which is part of the Sparrow Children’s Center, strive to provide an objective assessment of suspected child-abuse cases.

“We have the expertise to diagnose abuse,” Guertin says, “but also to say when we don’t think abuse occurred. Our approach is not to prove abuse, but to examine the issue, remaining completely open to the notion that abuse didn’t happen.”

That reluctance to “rush to judgement,” Guertin says, is a “valuable and valued” part of Sparrow’s contribution to the fight against child abuse.

Another important component of Sparrow’s contribution is education.

“As we see it, it’s essential, as we train Doctors, to educate them in the various aspects of child abuse,” an effort that extends to social service professionals, police and medical students, Dr. Guertin says.

“We try to cover the issue in every way. We want to be a resource for the region.”

Meanwhile, Sparrow Caregivers like Pediatric Residents Mo’ath AlHamad, M.D., and Rebecca Justin, D.O., work every day to increase fellow Caregivers’ awareness in recognizing and reporting child abuse.

Drs. AlHamad and Justin are helping organize a pinwheel garden in the lobby of Sparrow Hospital in Lansing with messages promoting awareness about child abuse. They also plan an information table in the lobby to promote better understanding of the issue.

Sparrow is a leader in caring for children. The first hospital in mid-Michigan to offer a dedicated children’s unit, Sparrow is home to the region’s only full-service Pediatric Emergency Department, the only Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and the only Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. As mid-Michigan’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, Sparrow provides the most advanced technology and treatment options in pediatric and neonatal care.

Choose Wisely. Choose Sparrow.