At McKenzie’s Hope, when a qualifying report of abuse is received, a multidisciplinary team of professionals meets the family at the Child Advocacy Center for the forensic interview. McKenzie’s Hope offers a child friendly, neutral location where wall murals, toys and oversized furniture create a comforting setting to help relax the children before they must talk about their experiences.
The staff of McKenzie’s Hope work to keep the children and non-offending parents comfortable and educated about the investigation. The staff and team members at McKenzie’s Hope will make any necessary referrals for counseling or other needed community services. Just before leaving the CAC, safety plans are put in place for the children and they are able to choose a gift from our giveaway closet. It is a goal of McKenzie’s Hope that all children leaving the CAC feel safe and leave with smiles on their faces. When the children are safe, the team reviews the children’s statements and prepares for the next steps in the investigation process, leaving the CAC with evidence in hand to seek justice.
With a large number of highly trained forensic interviewers available 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, DCS or LEA investigators are able to schedule interviews immediately – as soon as the family is able to respond. Across the state, CAC’s have found that the result of these coordinated efforts is a better investigation that often allows children to remain in the home and often settle out of court, thereby reducing the number of jury trials in our county. This process not only spares children having to go through the added trauma of trial, but also spares the county of additional funds being spent on taking the perpetrator to justice. DCS, LEA, and Prosecutors have come to expect high quality videotaped interviews of the child victims of sexual abuse, serious physical abuse and child witnesses to domestic violence or homicidal crimes.
Since January of 2006, over 834 children from Huntington County have been interviewed as potential child abuse victims at McKenzie’s hope. By working together as a team in a neutral setting, we are able to use each agency’s individual strengths to reduce the trauma inflicted on these children during this potentially devastating process, provide critical physical and mental health referrals, make sure that no child’s case falls through the cracks of the system, provide better recorded evidence and help the prosecution process so that less children are subjected to the trauma of testifying in court.
As long as these devastating crimes against children continue, McKenzie’s Hope and their multidisciplinary team will be committed to making the investigative process less traumatizing for children so they can focus on restarting their life with a healthy future.