At Catholic Community Service, it is our mission to treat all we serve with dignity, care, and compassion. The work we do is strongly focused on supporting and strengthening the most vulnerable individuals and families in Southeast Alaska, and on the front lines of this effort is our SAFE Child Advocacy Center (“CAC”). The CAC utilizes a collaborative team approach to the investigation of child sexual and physical abuse, as well as other forms of maltreatment. CAC then provides supports to child victims and their families to pursue justice and start healing through connection to counseling and other resources.
The Impact of ACEs – Adverse Childhood Experiences
Adverse Childhood Experiences (“ACEs”) are those traumas and difficult situations most of us have experienced as some time in our childhoods. If left untreated, ACEs have a tremendous impact on our experience of future violence, victimization, lifelong health, and opportunities for a joyful and productive life. Exposure to violence in childhood increases the risks of injury, delayed brain development, substance abuse, involvement in sex trafficking, sexually transmitted infections, non-communicable diseases, lower educational attainment, and limited employment opportunities.
(To learn more see the CDC’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/fastfact.htm)
Child Abuse and ACEs in Alaska
Alaska has the highest rate of child abuse in the nation. Alaska’s Department of Health & Social Services is studying ACEs in Alaska, following more than 33,000 children born 2009-2011. Data collected on these children shows that 37% of Alaska Children had some contact with the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) because someone reports their concern about abuse and neglect.
Of all Alaska Children Age 9 and Under:
·1 in 3 (more than 33%) has been reported to OCS.
·1 in 4 (more than 25%) has been “screened in” with a caseworker investigating.
·1 in 8 (more than 12%) has had their abuse or neglect substantiated by OCS.
·1 in 16 (more than 6%) has already been removed from their home due to abuse.
Catholic Community Service’s
Response to Child Victims of Crime –
How the SAFE Child Advocacy Center Helps
We Build the Case: CACs help to identify and document abuse in a way that can be used to support the prosecution of those who commit crimes against and in front of, and neglect children. The SAFE Child Advocacy Center employs trained forensic interviewers and “SANE-P” Nurses (trained in identifying physical and sexual assault in children). The staff meets with children in a safe space to evaluate them for an experience of abuse and neglect through a physical exam, and an interview to let them tell their story.
We Start the Healing: CACs are often the first to substantiate if a child is a victim of crime so the child can be kept safe from additional abuse. CACs identify children’s need for help and connect them and their loved ones for mental health treatment, enhanced primary care, and family and other supports to lessen harm and prevent any future risk that comes from failing to intervene and address trauma and ACEs.
What Happens without a CAC: the child may end up having to tell his or her story repeatedly to doctors, police, lawyers, therapists, investigators, judges and others. In addition, they may have to divulge their experience at a police station while thinking they’re in trouble, or they may be asked the wrong question by a well-meaning adult that ultimately hurts the case against their abuser. Getting through the investigation process without CAC support can retraumatize a child that has already experienced profound abuse.
We need to do more
Children who experience abuse need a lot of help to heal and Catholic Community Service is actively looking for more funding to expand our services—both the breadth of what we offer at our center and in reaching out to more communities to coordinate a response.
Of greatest concern is that many child victims of crime go unrecognized, because those who work most closely with them are not trained in the signs and symptoms of child abuse, and aren’t sure when and how to report their concerns.
Catholic Community Service is working to develop an outreach program that would allow SAFE Child Advocacy Center staff trained in identifying abuse to educate teachers, school and health clinic staff on how to recognize and report child abuse, so OCS and law enforcement can intervene and we can stop the abuse children are experiencing as soon as possible.
How you can help
As your Catholic charity, it’s our mission to help the most vulnerable among us with love and compassion. It’s challenging work but so desperately needed
I ask that you please pray for children experiencing abuse, for their courage to speak out, for those close to them to recognize abuse and report, and for Catholic Community Service and the SAFE Child Advocacy Center to successfully reach out to more children in pain.
If you would like to help us help abused children to recover from trauma and heal, donations of all sizes are welcome over the phone at 463-6161 or online at ccsjuneau.org/donate.
Thanks as always for your prayers and support!