Child Abuse Services
Child Advocacy Center
The mission of the Victims Assistance Center’s Child Advocacy Center of Northern New York (CAC) is to strengthen and protect children, families and the community through an interdisciplinary approach to cases of child sexual and physical abuse. Child Advocacy Centers are funded by New York State Office of Child and Family Services and bring child protective services, law enforcement, medical providers, advocacy and therapeutic resources together when allegations of child abuse or maltreatment are made. With the goal of making the abuse investigation process less traumatic for children.
The Child Advocacy Center of NNY has two locations:
Thank you to our Multidisciplinary Team Members (MDT)
- Victims Assistance Center of Jefferson County, Inc.
- Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office
- New York State Police Troop D & Bureau of Criminal Investigation
- Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department
- City of Watertown Police Department
- Fort Drum Emergency Services Military Police & Criminal Investigation Division
- Jefferson County Department of Social Services, Child Protective Services Division
- County of Jefferson Office of the County Attorney
- Jefferson County Probation Department
- New York State Parole Office
- Jefferson County Medical Examiner
- Samaritan Medical Center
- Carthage Area Hospital
- St. Lawrence County District Attorney’s Office
- New York State Police Troop B & Bureau of Criminal Investigation
- St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department
- Village of Gouveneur Police Department
- Village of Canton Police Department
- Village of Potsdam Police Department
- Village of Massena Police Department
- City of Ogdensburg Police Department
- St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services, Child Protective Services Division
- St. Lawrence County Office of the County Attorney
- St. Lawrence Valley Renewal House
- St. Lawrence County Probation Department
Child Advocacy Center Services
At the CAC, support and advocacy are provided to assist non-offending families in obtaining needed services and to help them through an abuse investigation and court process. The advocate acts as the child and family’s “go-to” person and continues to work with the family as a support person for as long as necessary. Advocates are able to assist with crime victim reimbursement, family court petitions, therapy and medical referrals, emergency financial assistance, court preparation and accompaniments, safety planning, emotional support, and any other services that may offer assistance in a time of need.
Case Management works closely with families served by the agency to connect them to community resources and enhance the quality of life. With a strength-based approach, case managers work with clients to highlight their strong suits and work towards attainable goals. When case managers meet with clients their needs are assessed in a collaborative manner and referrals are made. The program exists to plan and record the individual’s progress with regard to finances, employment, nutrition, basic needs, housing, physical and mental health and well-being. Case Managers provide ongoing advocacy within the criminal justice system, so clients understand the process, are fully informed, and are afforded the right to be heard. Clients are referred to a case manager if they express a need for ongoing services during or after their initial intake.
Some of the services provided by case managers include:
- Provide ongoing advocacy in the criminal justice system.
- Inform clients of rights.
- Inform clients of case progress.
- Attend court with client as necessary.
- Transport clients when necessary.
- Provide crisis intervention, information and guidance.
- Refer to community resources.
- Assist with filing paperwork.
In 2019, New York State funded seven mobile units in New York’s largest and most rural counties to ensure child abuse victims and their non-offending family members have access to services closer to home. The CAC was awarded two of the seven mobile units. One of the units will be used to service St. Lawrence County and the second mobile unit will be used to service Jefferson and Lewis Counties. A CAC advocate and forensic interviewer are dispatched in our mobile unit to a safe, neutral location. The CAC staff members are met on location by multidisciplinary team members such as law enforcement and Child Protective Services. The mobile units eliminate the need for families to travel long distances to get help and connect to resources.
The CAC offers a trauma-informed setting for non-acute sexual abuse examinations. The medical staff at the CAC is all-female providers and a medical doctor oversees the program. All of the medical providers have received specialized medical training to include the Child Abuse Medical Providers course, and volunteer their time to conduct exams. Medical exams are offered to any child that walks through the door. Even when no medical evidence is found, we want each child to know that their body is safe.
Forensic interviews are conducted with children alleged to have experienced physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse or who have witnessed a crime. A forensic interview is a fact-finding conversation, conducted by a specially-trained Forensic Interviewer, designed to elicit a child’s unique information. The goal of a forensic interview is to gather pertinent information from children in a neutral, non-leading, developmentally sensitive, and legally defensible manner. It allows the child to tell their story at their own pace. Most of the time, a forensic interview is completed in a single session; however, multi-session interviews, known as extended interviews, may be conducted in some circumstances. The forensic interview process allows the Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) to observe the interview as it is being conducted. This allows for a collaborative team approach to taking a child’s statement and therefore protecting the integrity of the information gathered and limiting the number of people who must directly interview the child. This approach also allows investigative parties to thoroughly assess child safety issues and possible criminal offenses that may have been committed. The forensic interview is often a critical part of not only the initial investigation but also the criminal prosecution at trial.
Child Fatality Review Team
The Regional Child Fatality Review Team is a multi-disciplinary team of professionals that work together to better understand how and why children pass away. The process is simple; the team reviews the fatality and all the factors that contributed to the death of the child and work to implement findings. The team strives to be more proactive and get ahead of fatalities.
The Jefferson County Safe Harbour Program provides case coordination and advocacy for youth, under the age of 24, who have been the subject of commercial sexual exploitation.
Survivors have access to services including:
- Medical care
- Mental health counseling
- Financial assistance
- Emergency shelter
- Other basic living and safety needs
The program also provides community education and conducts public awareness campaigns on the issue. The goal is to address the immediate life and safety issues of identified youth and to reduce the risk of continued sexual exploitation and abuse by providing access to needed resources.
Mental Health Services
The Victims Assistance Center (VAC) Therapy Program provides supportive and crisis counseling, as well as mental health therapy specific to victims of crime. These services are implemented through individual, group and family therapies.
Any person who is a victim of a crime, past or present, may be served under at least one of the programs offered through VAC. The therapeutic interventions utilized at VAC are always trauma sensitive. VAC believes that early crisis intervention is critical for victims and family members to begin the healing process.
The CAC has therapy services in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties. The therapy provided to child abuse victims in all three counties utilizes trauma-informed, evidenced-based interventions to ensure proper treatment of all clients. There are also caregiver educational support groups offered on an as needed basis. Referrals to the CAC therapy program can be made through self, community or internal referrals. If an on-staff CAC therapist is not able to take the case, a CAC advocate can refer to other community mental health agencies.
Rights of Crime Victims
Victims of crimes are afforded certain rights. As a crime victim, you have the right to know what is going on with your case. Victims of child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault are afforded additional rights.
For more information, please visit: https://ovs.ny.gov/sites/default/files/brochure/rights-crime-victims-booklet-final-8-24-20.pdf
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