27 Years in Business
As our anniversary approaches, I've been reflecting on how far we have come since the beginning. The C.A.R.T. House, Canadian County's Child Advocacy Center, has been in existence since July 30th, 1991. The organization was created by a group of citizens looking for a better way to serve children of abuse during the investigation process. There was a bad case that left many citizens baffled at how difficult it was for the child to get assistance and how many times the child had to repeat their story of abuse. They knew how traumatizing it was to have to repeat one's story multiple times and felt there had to be a better way. They researched models to reduce trauma in child abuse cases and came across the National Children's Alliance Center (NCAC) out of Huntsville, Alabama. Created by District Attorney Bob Cramer, NCAC began on the same premise of The C.A.R.T. House. A child's grandmother told DA Cramer that the justice system abused her grandchild more than the perpretrator. Before the first Child Advocacy Center (CAC) model was created, a child would have to tell their story of abuse up to 15-20 different people; from doctors, therapists, detectives, DHS case workers to prosecutors, etc. Cramer's team created the CAC model that is a central location where all the various entities came to the center where the child and non-offending parent/caregiver are able to access services in that central location. It was just the beginning of a movement.
There are 854 child advocacy centers in the United States and counting. We are blessed to be 1 of 20 CACs in Oklahoma. The children of Canadian County deserve a life free from abuse and neglect. Until that happens, we're here to give them the tools and resources they need to start the process of healing and restoration.
"You CHOSE to do this!"
Meet Alyssa*: Ten year old Alyssa came to our center earlier in the year to give her story of abuse to our forensic interviewer. Alyssa experienced horrible abuse by the arms of her step father. She carried a lot of shame and guilt around from what she experienced. She was afraid to tell the interviewer about what happened to her, because her mother had a hard time hearing the details. Alyssa stated her mother "freaked out". Alyssa kept saying, "I just don't want you to freak out." Our interviewer assured her several times that whatever she had to say, she could say it because this was a safe place and we are only here to help her heal. Our interviewer relayed to Alyssa that she had been doing this job for quite some time and she promised that nothing she would say would freak her out. Alyssa decided to take a chance and share her story of abuse. And as she was promised, our interviewer did not freak out as her mother had during the original disclosure. At the end of the interview, our interviewer asked her if she had anything else to share or any questions and Alyssa said she had one question. She asked, "did you choose to do this?" Our interviewer said, "Yes, I chose to do this." Alyssa asked, "Why did you choose to do this?" Our interviewer told her, "so others like you are able to share their stories and start the path of healing". Alyssa exclaimed, "You CHOSE to do this!" Our interverview, with a smile on her face, said, "Yes, I chose to do this." Alyssa just couldn't understand why anyone would want to listen to such horrific details day in and day out.
*Name changed for protection
Like Alyssa, we are blessed to have team members like our interviewer to help the children of Canadian County begin the process of healing. The telling of their stories is just the beginning of the healing process. We want to continue working in this community by providing continual services and growing our programs to cover those areas where services are not met.
We had 11 team members attend professional trainings in 2017, totaling close to 280hrs of training.
Looking back to even 10 years ago, things have changed dramatically in the amount of clients we serve each year. In 2010 we conducted 108 forensic interviews. We ended 2017 with 314 interviews. That's a 188.89% increase of interviews in just those 10 years. Looking at just the last two years, we conducted 204 forensic interviews in 2016. Looking at the difference from 2016 to 2017 is a 54% increase.
The MDT (multidisciplinary team), which includes individuals from juvenile services, law enforcement, child welfare, prosecution, medical personnel, mental health, forensic interviews, and the C.A.R.T. House Staff, make decisions together about how to help the child based on the interview. In order to stay up-to-date on the best practices and what is most current in policies and procedures, we provide training to our MDT members. In 2017 we were able to provide direct training to 11 members of our MDT; totalling close to 280 hrs of training.
We cannot do this work without the support of the community. Donations from our community is vital to maintain our center and manage our programs. Year-to-date, we have received over $8,300.00 in donations. This is what support looks like; this is what having the community wrapping their arms around you and supporting your mission looks like. Thank you for your continued support of The C.A.R.T. House and the children of Canadian County.
We have come a long way in the past 27 years since our inception. It's been fun looking back at some of the photos showing the renovations they had to do to revamp our houses to what we utilize today. We have just begun our greatest chapter yet. We are working with our community toward building a new building.
Currently we are housed in two separate buildings. The first building houses all the offices, waiting room, play room, and kitchen. The second house holds the staffing room, interview room, observation room, and the medical room. This produces problems for our children when we have bad weather, it’s extremely hot or cold outside, and for the smaller children they get scared when we take them from the main building to second building for their interview. We also have to go through the interview room to get to the medical room and this causes scheduling issues, because we cannot have medical exams scheduled at the same time as a forensic interview. We need a larger facility to house offices, waiting rooms, full kitchen, forensic interview rooms, group room, medical exam program, large conference room, and a designated play area for the children and families we serve. We need a controlled access entrance for security purposes as well. We need to grow our services and we have maxed out the space in our current buildings.
We are in the fight to end child abuse in Oklahoma. We want to develop an education/prevention program concentrating on personal space boundary rules and how to report if someone breaks those boundaries. We also want to provide support groups for girls 10-17 who have been sexually abused. This would give them the space to discuss their feelings with those that have experienced similar abuses. We would also teach them about boundaries, give them the tools to cope with anxiety, depression, and help them find their paths to healing. We also would like to expand our medical and forensic programs, as well as bring in a full-time counselor to assist in meeting the needs of our clients.
Help us meet the needs of Canadian County's children by donating today. You can even set up a recurring donation to help our cause each month.
These pictures show what our houses looked like 27 years ago and more recent what we have done to change to be more modern and comfortable for families visiting our center.