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Caseworkers learn to cope with surge of traumatic child abuse cases

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -

It's a team effort for employees of The Casie Center in South Bend to deal with the recent increase of traumatic child abuse cases. 

Last week, Shawn and Melanie Jewart were arrested and charged for a combined 12 counts of child molestation against their own daughter.  The case and evidence against them is so horrendous ABC57 News will not be getting into specifics.

According to the National Children's Alliance, there are a rising number. of child abuse cases in the country, and even in Indiana.  ABC57 News wanted to take a closer look at the available resources, and the impact on the people on the front lines, who have to hear the horrific stories of what these children endure. 

"We never know which ones it's going to be that really tugs at our heart," says Carolyn Hahn, the Executive Director of The Casie Center, a Child Advocacy Center. 

Each day, multiple times a day, employees at The Casie Center listen. They listen to the children recount their worst memories: ones of abuse and neglect.

"It's not easy work, it's not for everybody," explains Hahn. "It takes a very special people to do the work."

She says the work they do, is important. They have the power to change a child's life forever. 

"Our trained response is not to react. We want them to know we can hear it and it's okay for them to talk about it, no matter how weird or how disgusting," she adds.

It's up to the Center, filled with Child Protective Services, law enforcement, specially trained sexual assault nurses, and forensic interviews, to hear the children's stories, no matter how difficult.

"While it's often hard for us while they're here, they're often relieved for that responsibility of wondering if they should talk about it," explains Hahn. "We get to see the lightening of the mood and that's very gratifying to us."

In just the first few months into the new year, they've seen more than 400 children.  Last year, they saw a total of 1,500. 

Child abuse cases have increased across the state by nearly 18%, according to the National Children's Alliance.  Hahn says that increase may mean more people are paying attention.

"A raised awareness, if they see something of concern, they're going to call. And so more cases, I hope, get dealt with," she adds.

It's a heavy burden to bear, but they rely on the other caseworkers to help each other through it, knowing there's a purpose.

"It's healing to know the rest of the team is doing the right things to protect the child. It gives us a sense of mission accomplished," explains Hahn. "It's incredibly rewarding as it is difficult."

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