Learn About The Clark County Child Advocacy Center!
The interview below is from the FCS Blog:
We recently sat down with Wendy Holt, director of the Clark County Child Advocacy Center (CAC), and talked about what the CAC does and how it works with other organizations like Family & Children Services.
Question: Can you share how you came to work with the Child Advocacy Center?
Answer: I have been working in the child welfare field since 1989. In the 90s, I was an intake worker who investigated sexual abuse allegations. At that time, kids were being interviewed several times because each discipline needed information. I empathized for the children and their families, having to “re-tell what happened.” It was reliving their trauma over again. I worked with a core group of people from agencies in Clark County that agreed we needed a more child-friendly and collaborative process for investigating reports of abuse. We also saw the need for agencies to partner collaboratively to improve services for children and families. I learned of the National Child Advocacy Center (NCAC) model and the grant funds available. We were awarded a grant to send an initial MDT team of people from differing disciplines to training and learned the initial steps to becoming a CAC. Pam Meermans became the first director of the CAC when it was established. About six months ago, Pam became Deputy Director of Family & Children Services (FCS). This opened up the director position at the CAC. I applied for the position and was appointed the position in September 2011, leaving my position as supervisor of Foster Care and Adoption at FCS.
Question: What does your role involve?
Answer: My focus has been on developing and maintaining inter-agency coordination and cooperation amongst partner agencies who are involved with CAC child abuse cases. I work closely with the CAC Advisory Board and multidisciplinary team members. Our core multidisciplinary team consists of six disciplines: FCS, Law Enforcement, Prosecutor, Victim Witness, Medical and Mental Health.The CAC is accredited by the National Children’s Alliance so I work to ensure the accreditation standards are maintained. I am also responsible for organizational policies, program/service delivery, strategic planning and quality improvement. I continue regular contact with the Director of the Ohio Network of Child Advocacy Centers (ONCAC) and other partner CAC directors in our state as well.
Question: What exactly does the CAC do?
Answer: The CAC provides services for child and severe physical abuse victims and their families through a cooperative, multi-disciplinary team. CAC cases are referred by FCS, law enforcement or the prosecutor’s office. The CAC provides a child-friendly environment for children and families to speak with social workers, law enforcement detectives and CAC staff. The CAC also offers advocacy services and linkages for medical exams and counseling. Twice a month, we meet as a team to make decisions about investigation, treatment, management and prosecution of child abuse. We are currently working on a database to organize information so we can track and measure the outcomes of cases. We will be able to use this data as a way to see areas in which our MDT is producing positive outcomes, as well as to identify the areas that need improvement. It’s critical that the MDT members are trained to do what they do. I want to make sure that each discipline involved with CAC cases is provided with opportunities to get specialized, up-to-date training.
Question: Why do we need any organization like CAC in our community?
Answer: The CAC is key in coordinating and centralizing all the experts involved in child abuse cases. Our facility provides a child-friendly environment; children don’t have to go through unnecessary trauma of multiple interviews. They are interviewed by a forensic interviewer who has been specifically trained in this area. All interviews are recorded. The investigation is streamlined; information is shared; and decisions are based on more expert information. Also, any services such as medical evaluations and counseling are coordinated via the CAC case manager. As a result, children are able to begin their healing process faster. The majority of child abuse cases are preventable. We want to give attention to prevention programs and educating others on how they can help. We encourage everyone to learn the resources available and to learn more about the signs and symptoms of abuse, so together we prevent abuse in Clark County.