Woman Finds Calling in Helping Abused Children

The Children’s Resource Center (CRC) is a nonprofit agency in the Department of Pediatrics of PinnacleHealth System. It is located in the Polyclinic Campus’ Community Health Center. The manager is Lynn Carson.

Carson came to Harrisburg by way of the military. “My father was in the Air Force, and we lived all over the country,” she says. “I was born in New Hampshire but spent most of my formative years in the Lewisberry area, graduating from Red Land High School.”

Carson’s early career was as a respiratory therapist, and eventually, she became a clinical instructor at Pinnacle. After securing a BS in health care education from Ottawa University, one of the first online degree institutions, her interests turned to social justice issues. “Because of that, I enrolled in the criminal justice curriculum at Villanova University,” she says, “and earned an MS degree in 2001.” Carson assumed her current position in 2012.

“This is an agency that provides a safe place for children to tell their stories of abuse,” she says. “Children are referred to us by several sources…police, physicians and children and youth services.”

Including Carson, there is a staff of nine at the center. “We have two clerical employees and three child interview specialists specifically trained for that purpose,” she says. “Our three medical providers are two nurse practitioners with pediatric specialties and our physician, Paula George. Dr. George is a board certified child abuse specialist, one of only 200 or so in the country.”

Pinnacle’s CRC was created in 1994, the third of its kind in the Commonwealth. It was initially designed to be a central location for all agencies involved in medical evaluating, interviewing and treating children suspected of being sexually abused. Two years later, it began to see children suspected of being physically abused, as well.

In 20 years, it has helped over 8,500 children from 20 Central Pa. counties. “It was established to serve the counties of Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry and Lebanon,” says Carson. “But, over time, we have expanded to include, among others, Franklin, Fulton, Schuylkill, Mifflin, Juniata, Blair and Bedford.”

“We saw 780 children in 2013,” says Carson. “They ranged in age from 3 years to 18 and were either victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse or were witnesses to serious crimes. We also help developmentally disabled adults who have been sexually abused. Our clients come from all economic and social strata. We will see about 10 to 15 percent of them again.”

As manager, Carson’s tasks are varied. “I run the day-to-day operation and oversee the staff’s activities,” she says. “And I’m involved in developing future plans for the CRC…the agency’s direction and what services we may want to add.” She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in administration and leadership from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, schooling that should aid Carson in her continuing managerial role.

Pinnacle’s CRC is certified by the National Children’s Alliance. “It’s an organization that encourages professional expertise, continued training and the development of the most effective skills,” says Carson.

“Abuse like we see doesn’t happen in isolation,” she says. “There are many societal influences, including poor family functioning, instability within the family, harsh and abusive discipline and advertising and entertainment that exploits children.”

What animates Carson about her work?

“It’s an opportunity to speak for kids, to really make a difference in their lives.”