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Chinese delegation visits Hagerstown child advocacy center in Hagerstown

November 14, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- A delegation from China's National Population and Family Planning Commission was in Hagerstown Thursday to study how the United States manages family planning and social services for children.

The visit was part of a two-day seminar coordinated by Kaplan College in Hagerstown and included tours of Washington County Hospital and Safe Place, a child advocacy center in the Walnut Street Community Health Center.

Friday, the group is scheduled to visit Mont Alto Family Practice in Pennsylvania and Manito, an organization that provides alternative education for youths with behavioral problems and learning disabilities.

At Safe Place, program manager Teresa Thorn guided the group of 23 Chinese officials through exam rooms and interview rooms, pointing out features such as the locked and video-monitored entrance, the child-friendly murals on the walls and the one-way windows that allow investigators to watch interviews with children without overwhelming them.

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Safe Place was created so victims of child abuse only would have to tell their stories once instead of telling them over and over to different agencies, Thorn said. The facility houses law enforcement officials, attorneys, child protective services officials, a pediatrician, nurses and a victim advocate, she said.

The visitors asked Thorn about how the center is funded, what ages it sees most, whether it charges for services and whether the child abuse rate is coordinated with the teen pregnancy rate.

"I thought they had very good questions," Thorn said after the visit. "I hope they can take something back to their country about what we're doing in protecting kids."

Xin Qiang Song, deputy director of Shandong Province's family planning commission, said one of the things he took away from the visit was the importance of utilizing funding from both the government and nonprofit organizations.

Safe Place receives about 75 percent of its $600,000 budget from the government and the rest from nonprofit organizations, Washington County Social Services Director David Engle said.

The group was the 19th Chinese delegation to come to Hagerstown for Kaplan College seminars, according to Larry Glenn, the campus' international programs coordinator. Glenn arranges the seminars in coordination with a cultural and business exchange company in Virginia, he said.

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