The Silent Tears study — a 336-page report — was released in late May and recommended numerous steps for the state to take to strengthen its response to child abuse.
Haley told those in attendance that this report hit close to home because she was a victim of child abuse.
Haley first made the revelation of abuse in her book, "Can't Is Not an Option: My American Story." Haley said she was abused by a child-care provider and her parents didn't know what to do.
"It doesn't matter your background, your education, the wealth of your family, every child is subject to child abuse," Haley said.
"It was a daycare provider that was taking care of me. My mom sensed something was wrong, I never wanted to go. She didn't know quite what it was and then one day I came home and I had a lot of bruises and a lot of issues. And when she confronted the couple who was taking care of me, they packed up and they left and so we never got to deal with it."
Haley said part of it is making parents aware of what to look for in abuse. She said there are symptoms and signs, but without education, many may dismiss the problem.
"This report doesn't just say what government should do, it talks about what everybody should do," Haley said.
Greenville businessman and GOP donor Bob Castellani, founder of Silent Tears who, along with his wife Lisa, gave $250,000 last year to conduct the statewide assessment.
"The Castellanis didn't have to do this," Haley said. "This Silent Tears report goes after something government desperately needs. We know there's issues. We know that there are problems. But when you get a couple like Bob and Lisa who do it just because they want to give back, the information in this report is valuable. It allows us not to just tell one agency to do this or that, this allows us to get a statewide approach to deal with child abuse in South Carolina."
Haley said the report helps to address the need to bring everyone together to talk about it. She said it meant calling on churches, parents, DSS, guardian ad litem volunteers and coming together to say 'how are we going to address child abuse."
Though the state already has a strong and effective child protection system, National Child Protection Training Center executive director Victor Vieth said the report clearly showed the state could be doing more. Among the report's suggestions:
- Improve training at the undergraduate and graduate level
- Improve training in the field
- Improve the collection of evidence
- From crime scene to trial, resolving cases more quickly
- Develop partnerships between faith and child-protection communities
- Improve the mandated reporting system in SC
- Expand prevention initiatives in SC
- Improve the state's juvenile sex offender registry
- Reducing "vicarious trauma" among child protection professionals
The Children's Hospital is the Upstate's leading pediatric hospital. The hospital is one of three in the state that staffs physicians who specialize in the detection and treatment for child abuse.
Haley toured the Children's Hospital. She talked briefly with on-staff teachers who work with students while they are being treated at the facility. She also met with a family who was receiving services at the hospital, playing for several minutes on the floor with an 8-year-old child receiving care.
Dr. Nancy Henderson, one of GHS' pediatricians who specializes in child abuse, said she and another doctor have evaluated approximately 400 children for concerns of child abuse and neglect in Greenville County.
Children experience many different types of abuse," Henderson said. "Physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, exposure to drugs and alcohol, domestic violence. The greater number of experiences the more profound the effect."
Henderson said the effect may be felt in their adult lives and could impact their mental health and physical well-being.
Henderson said through the USC Medical School Greenville campus, the hospital will educate new medical students about their role as mandated reporters. Students will look at case studies, sit in on forensic interviews and attend court cases. They also will work to train those outside the hospital, teachers, DSS workers, law enforcement officers, can learn through their training how to take care of kids. The hospital also will work to implement prevention programs that will help those with children to be better parents.