It's A Whole New Way To Deal With Child Abuse Cases - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

It's A Whole New Way To Deal With Child Abuse Cases

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It was introduced today at the Annual Belmont County Child Abuse Prevention Luncheon.

Approximately 140 professionals in social work, law enforcement, the courts and medicine gathered to focus on the fight to keep children safe.

Their fervent wish was that this gathering wouldn't be necessary--that there would be no more child abuse.

But Belmont County Prosecutor Chris Berhalter says the cases this year alone are heartbreaking.

"There are children who have been harmed physically by their parents, children who have been molested and even children molested by those traveling from other states that they had met online," Berhalter said.

Belmont County is trying a new approach to the work of child advocacy called Alternative or Differential Response.

It divides child abuse cases into two types, and the less serious of the two would be worked on by families and a caseworker together, not on opposing teams.

"Previously we didn't have a choice," said Renee King of the American Humane Association. "We always had to pull out what I call our big guns and always had to provide an investigation, any time we got a report of abuse and neglect, whether it was a dirty house or sexual abuse."

They say only low to moderate risk cases can be dealt with this way.

But they say a messy house is different than a child being beaten or sexually abused, and they should not be treated the same.

So far in other counties, they say it's having great success.

"What we find is that kids are just as safe in this pathway," says King. "Some people would argue that they're safer because families are finally telling the truth about what's going on in their individual lives."

They hope to go statewide with the program by 2014.