Everyday, children across the United States fall victim to child abuse, neglect and other forms of maltreatment. Coping with these situations prove to be difficult and delicate. Often times, outside agencies like law enforcement and DSS have a difficult time obtaining accurate information for child interviews while making the child feel safe and secure. They rely on groups like the CARE House, which were founded to be places of support and comfort for victims and their families. Children’s Advocacy Centers, like the CARE House, interview child victims of these crimes, help set up physical examinations, and conduct therapy and counseling.
Opening in 2005, the mission of CARE House has always been to provide the highest quality services to victims of abuse and provide support for caregivers. With CARE House’s 5 full time staff members, it sees children and developmentally delayed adults from all over the Pee Dee and Kershaw county. They employ a contract counselor interviewer, two forensic interviewers/ therapists, a child advocate, who stays with the family throughout the entire legal process, and an intake coordinator, who reviews the forensic interviews. The CARE House mainly sees victims who are referred by the Florence County Sheriff’s Office. Investigator Farrah Turner, and her partner, Investigator Chad Collins, work for the Sheriff’s Office as the only two investigators for child crimes. They refer victims and their caregivers to the CARE House for the forensic interviews and counseling. While child crimes investigators can conduct forensic interviews, Investigator Turner believes that referrals to the CARE House are a better option. Law enforcement can only comfort to a certain extent; in order to do their jobs, they have to stay somewhat neutral. “At CARE House,” explained Investigator Turner, “they interview victims all day, everyday. They are experts in their field, and take time to get to know every child, making them feel as comfortable as possible.” Forensic interviews conducted at CARE House are recorded and conducted by professionals trained in the field. A recorded and written copy of the interview can be given to law enforcement, DSS, and used in court. This prevents the victim from undergoing multiple interviews, which can skew information, and be particularly difficult on the child.
After forensic interviews are conducted, the CARE House offers multiple forms of therapy and counseling for victims and their families or caregivers. Among the many kinds of therapy the CARE House offers, the main ones include, Parent Child Interaction therapy, for children who might have behavioral or attachment problems. This therapy works with teaching positive forms of interaction and discipline. They also offer Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is an evidence based treatment for children with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The CARE House has a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, with a playroom and snacks for the children. The goal is to make it as comfortable and safe for the children as possible. The staff is patient and friendly, and all have a true desire to make a difference in the lives of the kids.
The need for Child Advocacy Centers, like the CARE House, is increasing rapidly. According to a recently passed law, any child who witnesses domestic violence in the home is considered a victim. This might have contributed to the 42% increase in the number of children seen by the CARE House in 2015, compared to the year before. Last year, the CARE House conducted forensic interviews for 471 children. If the trend continues, they will see even more children in 2016. Meg Temple, Director of the CARE House, is hoping to expand staff and increase awareness for the importance of Child Advocacy Centers. They would love to get funding for evidence based treatment, and possibly have a relationship with corporate donors. The CARE House thrives on community outreach and volunteers. They take donations of any kind, monetary, time or even donations of snacks and paper products. The CARE House hopes to be embraced by the community, so they, in turn, can support and love the children and their families affected by abuse.