Posted January 9th 2012 at 9:30 am by
in Community Action in Shreveport, Louisiana

Healing Youth at Shreveport's Cara Center

It saddens me to know that some human beings want to harm innocent children.

We live in a world where our children have limited protection, and where evil sleeps in our own homes. When children admit to being abused, some adults dismiss them.  This reaction silences children and says that they do not have a right to express their feelings. But any sane person knows that is not true.

Child abusers lurk everywhere, and are often family members such as a mom or a dad.

For this reason, the CHRISTUS Schumpert Health Systems partnered with Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center to launch the Cara Center. The Center, which opened in 2001, provides comprehensive care for the diagnosis and continuing care of children who are victims of child abuse. Cara Center representatives often meet with Child Protective Services, local law enforcement, local mental health facilities and other agencies to provide the best well-rounded care for victims, such as medical and counseling services.

At the same time, the Center works to increase public awareness on the seriousness and impact of child abuse through outreach programs and one-on-one contact with those referred to them by key agencies. Since opening, they have served 6,900 children.  Sadly, each year the number increases.

For 30 years, Alberta Davis has worked for the CHRISTUS Schumpert family. It was 11 years ago, when Director Sister Rose Marie McDermott, CCVI approached Davis requesting her involvement with the Cara Center. Prior to her work at the Cara Center, Davis led, what she calls, a sheltered life. Although she was aware of incidents of child abuse, she didn’t know statistics or the severity of abuse in Shreveport.

“It’s sad that there are people out there who really neglect and abuse kids,” Davis said. “You would think that people would realize that it’s wrong.” Indeed. Children are not here to be our servants or slaves. They are here for us to love, nurture and rear to be the best adults they can be.

I believe we are all born perfect. This means that murderers and child molesters were once pure little boys and girls, but at some point in life, they were stripped of their innocence. They were never able to regain peace or develop the inner strength needed to become productive individuals.

If we can provide effective counseling to children, then maybe we can raise more upstanding citizens and less law-breakers. If we, as a society, provide actual rehabilitation for those kids going to juvenile court then maybe we can catch them before they go to prison.  That way we can decrease the national recidivism rate.

Davis believes that even though some abused kids must go through hell, it’s always a blessing to see a child placed in a loving foster home.

In October, the Cara Center receives funds of an annual fundraiser called “Run with the Nuns.” The event’s goal is to promote the health of all children. Cara Center staff and area volunteers are extremely involved in the event. The center is supported only through donations from community members and organizations in the Greater Shreveport/Bossier City area. But Davis hopes that with such events more focus will be placed on mental health.

“Counseling is such an important part of getting to that next level in life,” Davis said. “It is a vital part of the survival process for victims.”

In the meantime, parents should create safety plans with their children, Davis says. These are indicators that can alert a parent to child endangerment. For instance, if your child is somewhere without you – maybe at a friend’s house – he or she can call you and say a secret word or phrase that you all have established to let you know he or she is not safe.

The future of the Cara Center is all about helping more children, and educating more people on the seriousness of child abuse.

This post is one in a series about community action in Shreveport, Louisiana.

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