FULTON, NY – Karrie Damm, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County, is pleased to announce that the Shineman Foundation recently awarded a $20,000 grant to the CAC to enhance the investigation of child abuse cases in Oswego County.
Working in conjunction with Oswego County District Attorney Gregory Oakes, Damm wrote the grant application seeking funds to purchase video recording equipment to record forensic interviews of child victims by law enforcement and child protective workers.
“Thanks to a previous grant from the Shineman Foundation we were able to bring in experts from the National Child Advocacy Center in Huntsville, Ala., to provide training on the latest advances and best techniques for conducting forensic interviews,” Damm said. “We are now able to add video recording so that we’re complying with nationally-recognized best practices.”
According to Damm, the National Child Advocacy Center has noted that recording children’s disclosures is one of the most efficient and least traumatizing ways to enhance forensic investigations, as it reduces the number of times the child has to retell memories of the abuse.
“We need this mechanism,” said Damm. “Video recording is an outstanding resource, as it streamlines and improves the accuracy of the investigation by allowing prosecutors to hear exactly what the child told the investigator or caseworker.”
In discussing why the video recording would take place at the CAC, Damm explained, “We are much more effective and successful if the investigative process begins in our child friendly Center, where we can support victims and their families in their moment of crisis.”
Damm noted that the center promotes healing from the initial visit, by offering counseling and giving referrals for additional services.
In discussing other forms of assistance offered by the CAC, Damm noted, “Our victim advocates help reduce anxiety by educating families about the next steps in the investigation, prosecution, and treatment.”
In expressing his support for the new program, District Attorney Oakes said that video recording will allow prosecutors to demonstrate that investigators are properly conducting forensic interviews to obtain valid disclosures from children.
Noting the benefit for the victim, Oakes added, “For investigators, caseworkers, and prosecutors to do our job properly, we need to see and hear from the victim. Recording allows all of us to assess the case without traumatizing the child through repeated interviews.”
With its mission of enhancing the quality of life in Oswego County and being a transformative catalyst for change that creates a vibrant community life for Oswego County, the Shineman Foundation’s choice of the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County as a grant recipient was a natural fit.
“The CAC is a highly respected and well run organization,” said Shineman Foundation Executive Director Karen Goetz. “The CAC’s mission is to reduce the trauma that abused children face in explaining what happened to them so that perpetrators can be brought to justice. Their broader vision is the complete eradication of child abuse in our county. The CAC successfully utilized the previous grant they received from our foundation. Awarding the agency this grant was a logical next step in their efforts to improve interview techniques with the children they are serving. The Shineman Foundation supports the CAC because achievement of their mission and vision would truly be a positive change in Oswego County.”
District Attorney Oakes echoed those thoughts on the CAC.
“The Child Advocacy Center is the premier mental health and advocacy organization for abused children in Oswego County. I’m pleased that the District Attorney’s Office could partner with the CAC on this grant application and I’m tremendously grateful to the Shineman Foundation for supporting our work on behalf of child victims,” he said.
While noting the role that the CAC plays in investigations, both Damm and Oakes were quick to give credit and praise to the other members of the Multi-Disciplinary Team.
Aside from mental health counselors and victim advocates from the CAC, the MDT is comprised of police investigators, prosecutors, probation officers, representatives from DSS, and medical personnel. Damm said that the MDT will be establishing guidelines for the program and anticipates that it will begin within the next six or eight months.
Damm expressed tremendous appreciation for the generosity of the Shineman Foundation and its continued partnership with the Child Advocacy Center.
“This grant will have an immediate impact on the positive work of agencies who address crimes against children in our community, allowing us to reduce the impact on children while holding offenders accountable,” she said.
Damm noted that the Shineman Foundation’s mission to be a catalyst for change is clearly reflected in this project.
“This grant will have a lasting impact on the healing of child abuse victims and their families in Oswego County for many years to come. It will ensure that children will have the resources they need to overcome secrecy and shame about child abuse,” added Damm.