Mental Health Program

Services for Kids and Caregivers

Child abuse can cause children and their families to lose trust in the world and in themselves. Support from a mental health professional can help children and families:

  • Deal with strong and often confusing feelings; and
  • Heal from the trauma and move beyond the abuse.

The Children's Advocacy Center is committed to supporting the recovery of child abuse victims and their family members. We strive to help families access appropriate, effective and culturally sensitive mental health services by providing:

  • Referral to specialized trauma evaluation and counseling; and
  • Consultation and referral assistance for children with sexual behavior problems and their families.

Services for Professionals

The CAC Mental Health Program offers expertise to professionals by providing consultation to:

  • Multidisciplinary investigative team (MDT) interviews and case reviews; and
  • Partner and community agencies

Child-to-Child Sexual Behavior

Caregivers and professionals often face challenges in understanding and responding to a child's sexual behavior. The CAC is available to assist in situations when there are concerns about a child's sexual behavior with another child.

Our goal is to help:

  • Distinguish between sexual behavior that is part of normal development and behavior that is concerning;
  • Use an understanding of children's sexual behavior to respond in a healthy and effective way; and
  • Help children and families access services from professionals, when needed.

Child-to-Child Sexual Behavior Q & A

  1. What causes sexual behavior problems? Have all children with these problems been sexually abused?

    There are many factors that influence a child's sexual behavior and sexual abuse is not the only cause. Exposure to adult sexual activity and/or sexually explicit materials such as the internet or pornography, physical abuse and emotional neglect, and witnessing domestic violence have all been shown to contribute to sexual behavior problems.
  2. Do sexual behavior problems continue to adulthood?

    Intervention with children with sexual behavior problems can be very effective. When the behavior is identified in childhood and intervention occurs, most problem behaviors do not continue into adulthood.
  3. How do you know when to be concerned?

    When evaluating the sexual behavior, it is very important to consider the context or circumstances in which the sexual behaviors have taken place. Thinking about the size, age, developmental stages, relationship between children, and any previous history of engaging in sexual behaviors are all considerations in determining the seriousness of the behaviors.
  4. Why do children engage in sexual behaviors?

    Children engage in sexual behaviors for a number of reasons. Normal sexual behavior is another way that children explore and learn about their bodies. Some children use sexual behaviors for self-soothing, as a way of reducing anxiety or possibly as a way of understanding or re-enacting previous sexual abuse.

When in doubt about your child's behaviors, seek the help of a professional with expertise in child sexual behaviors.

For more information, click here.

CAC Mental Health Partner Agencies

The following agencies participate in the CAC's Mental Health Committee and/or provide consultation to the CAC:

Boston Medical Center
Children's Hospital Boston
Family Service of Greater Boston
Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
Latin American Health Institute
The Trauma Center at JRI

Contact:
Sharman Nathanson, LICSW, Director of Mental Health & Advocacy
617.779.2139
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