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Organization helps those who can't help themselves

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by Jolene Toves

Guam - Giving a voice to those who may not be able to defend themselves, Adult Protective Services aims to curb violence against our island's man'amko and adults with a disability.

Tasked with standing up for some of our islands most vulnerable the Department of Public Health and Social Services' Adult Protective Services unit is here to provide services for those who may have been abused. "APS is mandated to receive and investigate all reports of suspected abuse neglect and exploitation of our elderly and adults with disability," said supervisor Jocelynn Cruz.

Looking out for our island's elderly 60 years and older and adults 18 years and older with a disability, a social worker will initiate a home visit to meet with the client, the alleged victim, and conduct an interview with all involved parties including the alleged abuser.

Cruz says there are several types of abuse which should be reported to APS - abandonment, physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, financial or property exploitation, neglect, self neglect and sexual abuse. "In physical year 2013 alone APS received a total of 283 referrals 70% which were specific to our elders and 30 percent specific to adults with disability between 2009 and 2013 we have seen at least a 70 percent increase in referrals," Cruz explained.

She says while those who are employed in an occupation involving the safety, health or education of the elderly are mandated by law to speak up. Anyone who sees or suspects abuse is occurring should make a report stressing the importance of getting the process started.

"Very serious cases such as physical abuse and sexual abuse we would typically make an immediate response within 24 hours and for all other types of cases the law requires that we initiate a response within seven days," she added.

APS is required to complete an investigation within 30 days and make a determination within 60 days of the report. Cruz says case investigation is at the forefront of their mission but if a report is substantiated APS will provide services including protective care when necessary through Catholic Social Services. "We conduct home visits with the family and the alleged victim to assess what services they may possibly be in need of we develop an individual care plan with the client," she said.

Once a care plan is developed APS will make the necessary referrals to the agencies which are best suitable to provide the services. To help stop abuse against our elderly and adults with a disability contact APS at 735-7415 or 632-8853. 

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