News

Advocacy Center supports child abuse

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(Editor’s note: This story is the second part of a multi-part series “Stolen Innocence,” about children who have been victimized by abuse that began in Issue #1 and will continue through Issue #6. Several staff member took it upon themselves to interview, take photographs and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.)

by: CHESANIE BRANTLEY/Editor-in-Chief

In 2014, 699 children were sexually abused, severely physically abused or witnessed a violent crime and went to the Children’s Advocacy Center (CACSP) of the South Plains for help.

“Our main job is to interview abused/traumatized children for CPS (child protective services) and law enforcement,” said Carmen Aguirre, executive director of the CACSP in Lubbock.

The CACSP serves children, along with developmentally delayed adults, who have experienced abuse. The average client who goes into the CACSP is a 9-10 year old girl who has been sexually abused by someone she knows very well and trusts. According to Aguirre, CACSP works with law enforcement, CPS, prosecutors, therapists and medical personnel on these cases.

Aguirre says that, when a family walks in the center, they are greeted by a family advocate, who explains the process they are about to undergo and helps with the paperwork. The family advocate for CACSP right now is Lori Salinas. According to Aguirre, Salinas also talks to the family about crime victims compensation and the importance of therapy.

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Photo Illustration by SKYLAR HERNANDEZ/PLAINSMAN PRESS

“We also offer free therapy free of charge for children and their non-offending caregivers,” said Aguirre.

The family advocate will also inquire about things such as any other social services the family may need and makes referrals for them.

The most difficult part for Aguirre is when the child is participating in the interview.

The child is taken to talk to the forensic interviewer. The acting interviewers are Terri Sanchez, John Wuerflein and Mary Infante. There is an observation room where law enforcement and/or CPS employees are able to observe the interview. After the interview, the investigators or detectives meet with the parents and talk to them about what is going to happen next. It also is possible for the forensic interviewers to be subpoenaed to testify in court.

“(Forensic interviewers) go through extensive training at our state chapter,” said Aguirre. “After that, they are required to go to peer review, where they meet with other interviewers and get their interviews critiqued.”

According to Aguirre, the CACSP offers community outreach programs and education of child abuse.

“We teach children how to stay safe,” said Aguirre, “and adults how to recognize and report child abuse.”

The CACSP provides coordination of medical evaluations and of bi-monthly case reviews and support of partner agencies in their investigations, a resource library, an emergency supply room for children removed or at risk of removal from their homes, and training for other institutions on recognizing abuse.

According to Aguirre, the most rewarding part of being involved in the CACSP is when they see a perpetrator get a conviction, as well as when the child and their non-offending caregivers engage in therapy and improvements are seen in the child.

“It is everyone’s business to report child abuse,” Aguirre said. “If your agency needs training on recognizing and reporting child abuse, we can do that. There is no charge for our training.”

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