Most often, children come to the Child Abuse Network within the first three days after their abuse has been reported. Here, the multidisciplinary team of agencies provides a variety of services to investigate child abuse with minimal trauma to the injured child. The result? A safe, child-friendly approach to help begin the healing.
Children’s interviews are an important part of a child abuse investigation.
The Child Abuse Network employs professional child-interview specialists who conduct forensic interviews at the request of child welfare or law enforcement investigators. CAN’s interviewers are specially trained to facilitate children’s abilities to make accurate statements about their experiences regarding reported abuse. CAN requires that its interviewers have a broad base of knowledge that includes child development, family systems and the dynamics of abuse.
Tulsa’s multidisciplinary team requested that CAN’s Board of Directors develop a forensic interviewing program for the following reasons:
- CAN embodies a professional, neutral position within the child abuse response system,
- CAN is organized and focused to reduce “system” trauma experienced by children who are allegedly abused.
Child welfare and law enforcement investigators may also use the interviewing facilities at the Children’s Advocacy Center. CAN’s child interview specialists are available to assist investigators who wish to conduct interviews at the Center.
Specially trained child abuse pediatricians and a nurse (LPN) from the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine (Tulsa) provide child abuse medical evaluations.
The medical component is designed to respond to same/next day requests from Department of Human Services (DHS) – Child Welfare and law enforcement. As a general rule, CAN does not accept medical referrals from other sources. By coordinating with DHS or law enforcement, CAN assures that medical evaluations are conducted as part of a child abuse investigation, thus avoiding multiple exams by different providers. Although the majority of cases originate in Tulsa County, CAN’s medical services are available on a regional basis.
CAN’s medical component was developed through a focus group composed of representatives of the multidisciplinary team and local hospitals in Tulsa County. The result is a coordinated, community response to child abuse medical evaluations.
Medical evaluations are one of CAN’s most critical services. Medical findings assist investigators in determining whether abuse has occurred. Additionally, the child-friendly medical experts often relieve any anxiety that children may have about the health of their body.
Mental Health Services
Child abuse investigations can be very overwhelming, and many children and families have difficulties dealing with new emotions and anxieties. CAN assists families in many ways, including crisis intervention, consultation and referrals to appropriate therapeutic services and community support programs.
CAN employs mental health specialists who have extensive knowledge in child development, the dynamics of abuse, crisis intervention, family systems and community resources. The mental health specialists’ primary focus is to provide immediate support and information to children and their caregivers, so they can establish long-term relationships with appropriate community support programs and therapeutic services.
CAN’s mental health specialists also bring a unique perspective to the multidisciplinary team. This perspective is one in which the best interest of the child is the only focus. While all team agencies have the best interest of children as a guiding principle, their primary focus is determined by his/her mandated role in the investigation and prosecution of child abuse. Therefore the mental health specialists are particularly important as an objective resource for issues concerning specific cases and as an advocate for child-focused approach in developing team guidelines and Center protocols.
Case Review and Case Management
Case investigators have the opportunity to meet formally with team-agency representatives to discuss and exchange information related to specific child abuse cases. The team seeks to combine the insight and professional knowledge of individual team members and agency representatives for a more complete understanding of case issues and a more supportive response for the child and his/her caregivers.