The conference room at the Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children is packed, the mood subdued.

The group of professionals has gathered − as it does weekly − to discuss new cases of child abuse. They’ve come together to share their expertise so that our community can do a better job of protecting children.

There are doctors, nurses, social workers and a chaplain from Cincinnati Children’s. There are caseworkers, police detectives and prosecutors from Hamilton, Butler and Clermont counties.

This morning, they discuss cases involving a 2-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy. Doctors objectively describe their medical findings show photos of the injuries. Police and case workers share information they’ve gathered in their investigations.

Could these injuries have been accidental, or does the evidence argue for deliberate injury? Who had contact with the child? How do the caregivers explain the injuries? Do the explanations fit the evidence? Is it safe for the child to be in the care of the parents? Is there sufficient evidence for the police to file charges?

Beneath their subdued voices, there’s clear passion to prevent further suffering of abused children.

The Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children, established at Cincinnati Children’s in 2001, has become a national model for a uniquely collaborative approach to child abuse services.

The physical space was designed to provide a safe, reassuring environment for children. “This center replaces a police station,” says Robert Shapiro, MD, director of the Mayerson Center, pointing to the child-friendly waiting room and nearby playroom.

With its specially trained staff and facilities for medical exams and forensic interviews, the center offers a low-key setting for a high-stress experience.

The center was also designed to foster a multiagency approach. Along with hospital staff, the center houses Cincinnati and Hamilton County police; Job and Family Services social workers; and court advocates from the Prosecutor’s office. They work side by side every day.

In addition to the exams and interviews the hospital staff conduct, the center is available without cost to agencies conducting their own investigations. From police departments to the FBI and Homeland Security, organizations rely on the Mayerson Center’s facilities.

The center’s unusual collaborative approach, along with its robust outreach and education efforts, has improved awareness and identification of abuse, and built strong partnerships to fight abuse and protect child victims.

Cincinnati Children’s operates the center at a loss because it is critical to our mission to assure that the Mayerson Center’s services are available to our community’s most vulnerable children.