Maryland Expands Access to Mental Healthcare for Minors
Earlier in June, Governor Larry Hogan allowed a bill to pass into law that reduces the minimum age at which a minor has the capacity to consent to mental health consultation, diagnosis, and certain treatments. The bill changes the age at which minors do not need guardian consent for these services from 16 to 12 years old.
While allowing minors 12 years and older to pursue mental health services, the law includes provisions for circumstances where a healthcare professional might opt to inform a parent or guardian about certain aspects of treatment, unless that disclosure might harm the minor or deter them from seeking care. The law does not allow the prescribing of psychiatiric drugs to minors under 16 without their parental permission.
Lawmakers advancing the bill highlighted that it helps make mental healthcare more accessible to minors in families and communities where such care is not normalized, or where the relationship to helping professionals is strained. But the changes introduced may also have immense benefit to children who have been sexually abused. While it is estimated 90% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by an adult known to the child, recent research indicates that abuse occurring in the home by parental figures is a greater concern than has historically been acknowledged. An Australian study of child sexual abuse material found that 42% of adult survivors identified their father (biological, step, or adoptive) as the primary perpetrator.
While the above is only one recent finding, we know parental offenders exist and are often harder to detect than others. This new law expands the access to care and safety for kids trapped in harmful homes.
Originally introduced for the 2020 session, the legislation did not make it through the State Senate due to the impact of the pandemic. However, now more than ever a law like this can help youth in Maryland. As we have written prior, the pandemic caused a dramatic decrease in reports of child abuse due to the sudden decrease in interaction between kids and mandated reporters in their lives. Making matters worse, the severity of abuse increased during the pandemic, and many families experienced a rise in the circumstances that contribute to child maltreatment: stress, unemployment, isolation, and so on.
As youth activities resume, and children begin coming into contact with more caretakers, child welfare workers anticipate an uptick of overdue abuse reports, as well as the more general hurdles for children readjusting to a more normal social life. While the new legislation does not take effect until October 1st, it will add to the growing toolbox of child wellbeing across the State of Maryland.
Announcement from the Board of Directors
It is with great pleasure that the Board of Directors of No More Stolen Childhood announces that Katie Cashman has joined our organization as Executive Director effective June 7, 2021.
We are confident that Katie’s many talents and collaborative and energetic approach, paired with her extensive leadership experience in non-profit organizations will help us in our mission to engage all communities in the prevention of and healing from child sexual abuse.
Katie’s leadership experience includes over ten years with Springboard Community Services, formally Family and Children’s Services of Central Maryland, where she held senior leadership roles in quality compliance and program operations. Katie’s career demonstrates her passionate commitment to serving those who have been marginalized, traditionally underserved and are vulnerable to victimization. She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree from Towson University and attended post baccalaureate studies in Gerontology at McDaniel College.
In her new role as Executive Director, Katie will work closely with our committed Board of Directors, staff, community partners and all stakeholders to move our mission forward. Katie is taking the helm of No More Stolen Childhoods as we are engaged in a rigorous strategic planning process designed to both bring the organization into our next chapter and enhance our work. Katie will continue to maintain the operational strength of the organization to ensure the highest quality of program delivery.
As a native of Carroll County who has spent the better part of the last decade overseeing regional programming throughout Central Maryland, Katie is familiar with the unique challenges that many non-profits experience. Katie values the power of partnership and leveraging existing resources to grow and increase access to services and develop innovative programming while maintaining financial viability and long term sustainability.
The Board also extends its deep appreciation to Dave Pittenger, who served as Interim Executive Director during the transition. Dave brought a wealth of experience in non-profit executive management to the organization in his tenure and we are thrilled that he will continue his engagement with our organization in a volunteer advisory role. Dave and the staff and partners of No More Stolen Childhoods have provided excellent support and service during this time, allowing us an opportunity to recruit and retain Katie as our new Executive Director.
Please join me us welcoming Katie to her new role as Executive Director. The Board of Directors is deeply committed to working with Katie to ensure her successful leadership as No More Stolen Childhoods enters its next chapter.
Resource Spotlight: A Kid’s Book About Sexual Abuse by Evelyn Yang
One of the biggest barriers to addressing child sexual abuse is the plain difficulty many of us experience in trying to talk about it with other adults and in age-appropriate ways with children.
Unfortunately, this means that all-too-often these essential conversations happen after something harmful has already occurred. That needs to change, and a recent book from the “A Kid’s Book About” collection seeks to help parents tackle the necessary conversations with their children, beginning from age 5 onward.
The book came about after Evelyn Yang, who is an abuse survivor, mother of two, and wife of former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, publicly disclosed sexual abuse by her OB-GYN. Following that, not only did others come forward reporting abuse by the same person, but Evelyn remembered an episode of childhood sexual abuse she had also lived through.
While enriched by her advocacy work and ability to help others, she realized she wasn’t even yet able to explain the issue to her own children, and there lacked resources to help. A Kid’s Book About Sexual Abuse became the book she wished she had had.
Using a narrative form, Evelyn tells the story not of her abuse in childhood, but rather of abuse in adulthood. She wanted to demonstrate that even for adults the experience of sexual abuse is scary and confusing, and therefore children should also feel no shame in their own confusion, or in telling someone what’s going on.
A Kid’s Book About Sexual Abuse is a book about safety and empowerment, giving children the language and understanding to recognize abuse, while directly encouraging them to tell trusted adults if they are experiencing it. In an interview, Yang explained that “the key point of the book is that no matter what happens, the single most important thing you can do is to tell someone. It’s always brave to tell the truth, and your voice is powerful. This is an important lesson for every child—regardless of whether or not they are currently in an abusive situation or not.”
For more books, articles, videos, and podcasts, visit our resource page.