The Care Center, an OBF Grantee, is a Child Advocacy Center proving a comprehensive and safe place for children to tell their stories of abuse. Here is the story of Alexis the Brave.
Alexis, age 7, was taken to the hospital because her biological family thought she had the flu. After running tests, it was determined she had something much worse. Alexis tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease. Her case was opened as an active abuse investigation and she was referred to The Care Center by DHS. She was only functioning at a 3-year-old level, and trained professionals at DHS and The Care Center could not get her to speak. She was completely non-verbal, and it was then they realized the magnitude of the abuse taking place in her life.
Alexis’ abuser had told her not to say anything and most likely threatened to do something awful if she did. She was very confused, scared, and ill. The Care Center worked with Alexis while gathering as much information about her story as possible. Their trained forensic interviewer talked with her teachers to learn the best way to communicate with her, and they finally had a break-through! Alexis disclosed inappropriate behavior by her grandfather, and she was placed with a loving foster family. Her grandfather was convicted of child abuse. On January 23, 2018, Alexis was legally adopted by her foster family. Her life had been forever changed by the care she received at The Care Center.
Every seven seconds, a child abuse report is made in Oklahoma. This happens in every town and neighborhood in our State. The Care Center, an OBF Grantee, provides a comprehensive and safe place for children to tell their stories of abuse. A team of professionals – including law enforcement, DHS, medical, mental health, legal, and family advocacy personnel – work together on each case. This multidisciplinary team effort is a hallmark of child advocacy centers and provides a coordinated, joint response to abuse, with the child’s best interests in mind.
One of the most important services the Care Center provides for children is the forensic interview process. A trained forensics interviewer talks with the child to get the details of the story in an environment where the child feels safe. Before child advocacy centers existed, a child victim had to repeat the story of abuse to adults they did not know an average of seven times, including to doctors, police and attorneys, among others. Any discrepancies in the child’s story arising from the repeated telling could be used not only to prevent the arrest of the child’s abuser, they could also prevent the child’s safe placement in a different home.
Another benefit of forensic interviews relates to the court process. An abused child would often be called to testify in court in front of the person who abused them. This was terrifying for the child. Because, however, forensic interviews are videotaped and recorded, they can be used instead as evidence. The abused child no longer must endure the additional trauma of testifying in person.
In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month (April), the OBF is proud to highlight the incredible work of The CARE Center, Oklahoma County’s only child advocacy center. Child abuse is an epidemic – one in three girls and one in five boys will be abused before their 18th birthdays in Oklahoma County. The CARE Center is committed to providing children and families the support and resources they need to help tell their stories and begin the healing process, as well as abuse prevention education programs for adults and young children. The CARE Center’s evidence-based interviews adhere to the highest standards set forth by its accrediting body, The National Children’s Alliance.
The Oklahoma Bar Foundation funds victim legal services and forensic interviews at The Care Center.
Learn more about The Care Center and watch survivor stories, including a video story of Alexis at www.carecenter-okc.org/survivors