The Mayerson Center

Profiles in Courage and Compassion

Three staff members give us a glimpse of how they care for abused and neglected children and cope with the secondary trauma they experience in the process.

Talking With...

Pratima Shanbhag, MD

Pratima Shanbhag is the newest faculty member in the Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children. She started her fellowship there in 2017 and became an assistant professor in October 2020. She performs medical evaluations of patients who are suspected victims of abuse or neglect.

“It’s my dream job,” she says. “I’m lucky.”

Her patients are children of all ages. Some are adults with developmental disabilities—an especially vulnerable group. A case begins with an open investigation with Child Protective Services or law enforcement for an allegation of abuse or neglect. Then a social worker from the Mayerson Center will do a forensic interview of the patient. Afterward, the social worker will consult with Shanbhag to determine the best course of action from a medical standpoint. That could be a physical exam and/or running tests and following up with treatment, if needed.

“We’ve been learning a lot about trauma-informed care in the center,” she says. “We know our population has been through a trauma, so when I step into the exam room with a child, I am careful in the words I use and with my body language.”

Talking with...

Heidi Malott, LISW-S

Heidi Malott has worked at Cincinnati Children’s for 32 years and was hired to be the clinical program manager of the Mayerson Center by its founder, Pat Myers, 20 years ago. She’s seen a lot of changes in that time, not only within the center but at a statewide and national level.

“The Mayerson Center was one of the first child advocacy centers in Ohio ,” says Malott. “Now there are 28 programs in Ohio, so it’s a movement that is really growing. There are about 780 nationwide, and it’s spreading to other countries.”

The goal of a child advocacy center is to bring all the entities working on a child abuse case together in one place so that families don’t have to travel around trying to coordinate those services themselves.

Says Malott, “Research shows that in communities without a child advocacy center, kids have to repeat a trauma disclosure seven to 14 times, which totally increases their trauma. With a child advocacy center, the child only sits for one interview, and all of the people involved in the case are present to help the family plan their next steps.”

Talking With...

April Barker-Casey, MSW, LISW-S

April Barker-Casey is a licensed social worker and clinical counselor in the Mayerson Center. Before COVID struck, her day would start at 9 am, seeing patients in therapy sessions. About once a week, she would head to the Trauma Clinic to see kids who had been in car accidents or were victims of gun violence. Since the pandemic started, she has been working out of a converted bedroom in her home, seeing patients virtually.

The kids she counsels are from all socioeconomic groups. Most of them are referred by the Mayerson Center, while some come from Hamilton County Child and Family Services or area schools. In cases where children have witnessed a homicide, the police make the referral.

“I do different types of therapy—childhood family traumatic stress intervention, which is short-term, about 5 to 7 weeks,” she says. “We don’t go into what happened to the child. Instead, we talk about symptoms of stress and coping skills, how to get past flashbacks and bad dreams. I also do a longer-term therapy, called cognitive processing therapy, which lasts 10 to 12 weeks. We go into detail about what the child has been through, along with learning coping skills.”

Share this page

Go to the next article

One Year Later: What Has COVID Taught Us?