After 24 years as a child abuse pediatrician, Dr. Nancy Henderson had seen it all. But that didn’t make it any easier: the dark purple bruises, the swollen sprains, and the injuries under the surface that no one could see but they would feel for a lifetime. One child after another would come through her office doors, the first of many stops on the long road ahead of them. Each day, she thought she’d grow stronger, but tears welled in her eyes every time they met the sad gaze of another child torn from their family. She didn’t need her stethoscope to hear their hearts ache. Even if she tried, she knew she could never be as cold as the hard tile floor of her exam room where the truth spilled out. Although she could heal the wounds on their bodies, she couldn’t fix what was really hurting them – the breaks in their families. Fed up with treating the symptoms of abuse and not the cause, Nancy connected with Pendleton Place for Children and Families (PPCF) to see what could be done.
PPCF provides innovative and collaborative services for children and families challenged by abuse and neglect to build a community where children are safe, families are strong and victims become whole again. The organization provides community services, family visitation and custody exchange, foster care assessment, and limited residential care. PPCF offers the structure, support and guidance children and families need to heal.
Nancy started working with PPCF when the organization teamed up with Greenville Health System (GHS) to provide medical care to children in their residential program. Since then, PPCF has increased focus on keeping children connected to their families and established new programs centered on a holistic approach. The Family & Child Assessment Center (FCAC), opened in November 2013, is a collaborative effort with Greenville County Department of Social Services, GHS Children’s Hospital and the United Way of Greenville County that provides comprehensive assessments to children and families entering the foster care system. At FCAC, PPCF works with families to get to the root cause of abuse and identify solutions to promote child well-being, safety and permanency.
Nancy helps children reconnect with their families since parents can participate in medical exams through FCAC. She recalls a patient who was reunited with her mother at an appointment. “She said she’d been waiting to hug her mom for days,” Nancy said. “It was a difficult situation, but being able to come to terms with what happened and make sure everyone is equally involved results in better care and recovery for the child and family as a whole.”
In addition to bringing families together again, PPCF offers guidance and support to help them move forward.
“Every child should have an opportunity to form positive, healthy relationships with both parents, despite previous conflicts,” Nancy said. “We want to prepare them for what’s ahead so they don’t fall back into what brought them here in the first place.”
Nancy knows her patients are cared for in all aspects and is glad to be a part of PPCF’s efforts. “It’s not only part of my job, it’s also part of me,” she said. “No one is stronger than a foster child. It’s important to be a voice for someone, especially a medical voice.”
To learn more about PPCF, visit www.pendletonplace.org or call 864-467-3650.