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UR Psychiatry Department Takes Over Family Court Program

Center offers enhanced services and safe haven for children

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The University of Rochester Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry now oversees the operation of the Children’s Center at the Monroe County Family Court.

The Children’s Center, located on the third floor of the Monroe County Hall of Justice, initially only provided day care for children whose parents were in court. In taking over the Children’s Center, the Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry has expanded the services to include assessment of a child’s needs and an early learning program.

“We're really trying to make this a place for early outreach,” said Wendy J. Nilsen, Ph.D., director of the Children’s Center and an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Medical Center.

For example, the staff will evaluate children to determine if they are experiencing developmental delays and then suggest appropriate referrals. If a child qualifies but is not enrolled, the new center would link the child with a Head Start program.

“We want to connect them to the existing services they need,” Nilsen said.

The Monroe County Family Court will hold an official dedication ceremony for the newly renovated Children’s Center Friday July 15 at 11 a.m. University of Rochester and Family Court officials will attend.

The center serves any child under the age of 18 while their parents are in court. There is no charge for the service. Parents whose children attend the center are in court for a wide range of issues, including orders of protection, child support and custody hearings, substance use, and juvenile delinquency.

 As many as 2,000 children could use the Children’s Center annually, officials estimate.

About 50 percent of those using the center receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, according to data. Another 26 percent have income in the “nearly poor” range, receiving Medicaid but not traditional welfare. Two-thirds of the children stayed at the center because their families had no one with whom they could leave them.

The New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children, which pays for the Children’s Center operation, selected the bid by the Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry for the program.

University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry students and others from the Medical Center will train at the Children’s Center.

“This is an opportunity to get to know children and families,” Nilsen said.

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