By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — First Lady of Wisconsin Tonette Walker visited Marshfield Clinic’s Child Advocacy Center (CAC) on May 19. The stop was part of Walker’s statewide “Fostering Futures” campaign to discuss the treatment and educational awareness of childhood trauma.
Walker toured the CAC facilities and participated in a roundtable discussion with clinic health care staff on their processes for identifying, addressing, and treating children who suffer from the traumatic effects from physical or emotional abuse.
Walker said, “We heard a lot of good things about the work that is being done here, and I was able to learn a little about how they are integrating it into education, which is wonderful. Not only that, but we heard about some barriers that are in the community that we need to cut, and it’s not just in this community, probably in every community that is doing this work.”
Since opening in 2009, the CAC has continued to increase and expand its services.
“When we work with children, we are trying to branch out and really broadening our footprint and not just working with children who are definitely abused or in foster care but working with children who are traumatized from whatever traumas that have occurred in their lives,” said Marshfield CAC Director Dr. Kristen Iniguez.
“We do that through providing comprehensive health care — so really making sure these kids are healthy — because a lot of them have chronic problems that might be unidentified or under-identified. They also have a lot of mental health needs, so we want to make sure that they have very trauma-specific behavioral health evaluations and therapies, and then also from an intellectual standpoint, making sure that we are maximizing their time in the classroom by providing what we call trauma-specific educational health services,” Iniguez added.
Walker and Iniguez said that the work of the CAC extends outside of the clinic’s facilities and into the community, where others need to be educated to identify and address trauma-effected children.
The Marshfield CAC serves the areas of central and northern Wisconsin with its core patients coming from Marathon, Wood, and Clark Counties. The center served over 240 children in 2016, a 60 percent increase over 2015.