A non-profit organization started in 1997, the Safety Center was created to help prevent further trauma these children might endure during that process. Utilizing the Children's Advocacy Center (CAC) model allows the Center to facilitate more effective prevention, detection, investigation and treatment of child abuse by bringing together the team of professionals that includes the vital resources of law enforcement, child protective services, victim service providers, prosecutors, medical personnel, mental health professionals and community volunteers.This team of professionals works together to ensure that the best interest of these child victims are being served.
Victim support and advocacy are key components for any Advocacy Center. Even when all of the individuals working on a case are very supportive of the child and family, the very nature of the investigation can be traumatic. The services of a victim advocate are essential in achieving the overall goals of reduction in trauma and secondary victimization for children. Our victim advocates are trained and knowledgeable of the court systems as well as the work of child protection, law enforcement, prosecution and the medical components of an investigation. Advocacy services consist of:
- Welcoming and orienting the child and family to the CSC.
- Providing crisis intervention during the initial visit.
- Providing the parties involved with information regarding the criminal justice system.
- Providing the child and family a consistent contact person throughout the justice process.
- Providing the victim and other witnesses with a better understanding of the justice process and their role in it.
- Enhancing the cooperation of the family in the court process.
- Accompanying the child and non-offending parent to court.
- Facilitating linkages with other types of concrete services, i.e., housing, food, job services, clothing.
A coordinated investigation is a successful response to child abuse, particularly child sexual abuse. The CSC has a trained forensic interviewer that performs a DVD recorded interview per request by law enforcement. The CSC also offers our interview room to law enforcement officers who have been trained in forensic interviewing. A coordinated approach:
- Reduces the number of interviews of the child.
- Facilitates the efficient gathering and sharing of all information critical to the case.
- Broadens the knowledge base by including the information from several agencies. Improves communication among agencies.
- The manner in which the child is treated during the first interview has a major impact on the child's ability to comprehend and respond to the intervention process and/or criminal justice system. It can also impact the child's emotional stability. One of the most harmful aspects of an investigation occurs if various individuals repetitively interview the child at different times and at different locations. One interview conducted in a child friendly environment such as a Child Advocacy Center will create less stress for the child.Sexual Assault Exams.
Specialized medical evaluations and sexual assault exams are made available to all children who are victims of suspected abuse, particularly sexual abuse. The specialized exams occur on-site at the Children's Safety Center in a child friendly environment, not only to assist with the physical evidence collection of the case, but also to provide much needed comfort to the child and non-offending parent. Our exams are performed by a certified SANE, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, specifically trained in child sexual assault exams. Her work is peer reviewed by the Center's Medical Director, Dr. Mark Thomas and by Dr. Karen Farst and Dr. Jerry Jones of Arkansas Children's Hospital.
The Children's Safety Center provides a free, comprehensive treatment program for the victim, sibling and non-offending parent. Early therapeutic intervention is crucial to the long-term well being of the child. These services are provided onsite in a child friendly environment. The goals of treatment for the child are:
- Reducing the emotional impact of the disclosure.
- Promoting healing, self-awareness and self-growth.
- Changing individual behavior and family relationships to eliminate the risk of abuse occurring in the future.
- Improve the victims self image/esteem through the developing a sense of self boundaries.
- Developing trust through the therapeutic relationship and changing roles with significant others.
- Developing a new definition of self beyond that of a victim.
- The goals for the non-offending parent vary depending on the dynamics in the case. A full range of needs are explored so that the non-offending parent will be able to provide the support necessary for the child. Research indicates that a supportive parent is pivotal to the child's recovery.