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Children's Hospital Holds 7th Annual Conference on Child Maltreatment

Therapists, counselors, prosecuting and defense attorneys, family court judges, medical personnel and law enforcement officials filled the auditorium of the IBEW Local Union No. 5 this morning in the South Side for a conference on child maltreatment.

Janet Squires, Chief of the Child Advocacy Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said the conference helps guide people to protect children's rights while understanding their profession's responsibilities.

"This is a very tough field, you know, trying to do the right thing for children and families is tough," Squires said. "I'm very excited to have this … it's our largest ever, it's just been wonderful."

Squires and Dr. Aviva Katz, an assistant professor of surgery in pediatrics at Pittsburgh Children's Hospital, spent the morning session presenting the two sides of debate in five ethical dilemmas involving protecting children's health and rights while also respecting the sovereignty of the family unit. The goal of the exercise was to remove personal motivations, and look at the issue from the legal side, and how decisions would impact the children.

Squires said the event is most important for the networking across career fields.

"One of the things we did this year, we tried very hard … to get professionals from surrounding counties to come as a team. So we might have a team of a social worker, a police officer and a lawyer come from one of the counties nearby and they learn how to work together better as a team," Squires said.

The two-day conference features break-out sessions in addition to guest speakers, including keynoter Dr. John Stirling, the director of the Center for Child Protection at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose.