A "Team" (multidisciplinary team) is a coordinated response by the agencies that are mandated to investigate child abuse. Part of this response is a joint interview of the child. By holding joint investigative interviews, these Teams reduce potential trauma that may result during an investigation of the allegations of an assault. In addition, a multidisciplinary response provides a forum for coordinated disposition planning and referral for appropriate services.
The Team is comprised of representatives from the Department of Children and Families, an Assistant District Attorney, a Victim Witness advocate, local or State police, a forensic interview specialist, a Pediatric Sexual Assault nurse and when appropriate a mental health consultant.
When serious child abuse is reported to the Department of Children and Families or police a multidisciplinary team should be arranged. The sensitive nature of these difficult cases has warranted special attention and knowledge reaching beyond that which any one professional can provide during the initial screening and investigation phase.
The Forensic interview occurs between a child and a forensic interview specialist in a our CAC. During the interview the child will have the opportunity to discuss school, home, being safe, as well as incidents of abuse.
The interview room is equipped with cameras so that a team, including; an Assistant District Attorney, police detective, Department of Children and Families worker, a victim advocate, and a medical professional may observe. This reduces the number of times a child will be interviewed.
At the conclusion of the interview parents and guardians, will have an opportunity to meet with the team and discuss how the investigation will proceed.
When there is a concern or report of abuse, children deserve a medical evaluation performed by a doctor, nurse practitioner or nurse with experience in this area.
The purpose of the medical exam is to:
• Ensure the health and well-being of the child
• Diagnose and treat medical conditions related to the abuse
• Reassure the child that everything is OK with their body
• Document any significant physical and forensic findings
• Allow for the collection of evidence that may be present on the child's body or clothing (if reported within a certain period)
Medical services at the Essex County Children’s Advocacy Center in Lawrence are provided by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program. The Essex County Pediatric SANE is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, who has received specialized education and training from the DPH Pediatric SANE Program to care for children and adolescents, when there are concerns for sexual abuse. The Pediatric SANE provides compassionate, coordinated, and comprehensive medical care that is responsive to the child’s developmental, physical, emotional, and cultural needs. The Essex County Pedi SANE provides specialized examinations in a child-friendly medical suite at the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC). In keeping with the program’s “Do No Harm” principles, examinations are customized to each child’s needs, and are not painful or traumatic. The Pediatric SANE regularly collaborates with community medical providers to ensure children receive comprehensive care.
Emergency SANE services for children and adolescents in Essex County are available at Lawrence General Hospital. These SANEs have been trained by the MA Department of Public Health (DPH) to care for children and adolescents when there has been an acute sexual assault (an assault occurring within 72 hours for patients 11 years and younger, or an assault occurring within 120 hours for patients 12 years and older). These SANEs are available to respond to Lawrence General Hospital on a 24/7 basis to provide a sexual abuse/assault examination, collect forensic evidence, and collaborate with other disciplines to ensure medication administration, safety planning and clinical follow up. They can also link appropriate patients to the Essex Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC).
If your child has suspicious or serious physical injuries, you may want to seek assistance through either your child’s pediatrician or if serious injury is present, taking your child to the Emergency Room of a local hospital. If you believe these injuries to be life threatening , for example: if your child is unconscious, unable to breathe, incurred a serious burn, has uncontrollable bleeding, you should immediately call 911.
Mental Health services are crucial in addressing the immediate and long-term effects of child abuse-related trauma, including:
• Working through and understanding the layers of impact of abuse. "Damaged goods syndrome", sexually-reactive behaviors, guilt or shame, fear or anxiety, depression or low self-esteem, inability to trust, and/or acting-out behaviors are some of the most common yet complex responses children experience as they move through the healing process.
• If the perpetrator of the abuse is a family member or is known by the family, the child often feels responsible for the chaos brought by a disclosure of abuse. Re-establishing a sense of safety and control marks the early stages of therapy. It is also crucial to address the stress that the family may experience in many areas of their life following a child's disclosure of abuse.
The course of therapy for both the child and the family benefit from working with mental health providers around the healing process.
Child: Children are referred to local mental health providers that specialize in working with children around trauma. The initial treatment is focused on helping the child re-establish trust and safety, and understand that this was not their fault. Following the initial therapy around the abuse/trauma, children will often need short-term therapy as they pass through developmental stages.
Family: Families are able to work with mental health providers supporting their child, how to re-establish safety and structure for their child, as well recognizing the symptoms and behavior of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Providers can also help families understand that it is very common for children to need additional mental health services as they age.
Find out more here: Mental Health Resources
Essex CAC strives to reduce the impact of trauma on victims and families, while increasing access to child and family advocates, medical evaluation and treatment, mental health referral and the criminal justice system.
The Essex CAC is a public-private partnership agency that works closely with key partners who have signed memorandums of understanding.
The Essex CAC provides the following services: Multidisciplinary Team Investigation, Specialized Medical Evaluations and Consultation and referral for Trauma Informed Mental Health intervention.
What is Child Abuse and what can I do? Information for parents and professionals. Important links to relevant resources.
The Essex CAC hosts and participates in events that further their goals to provide quality care and services to the community. Check back frequently to see what we are up to.
The Essex CAC services are offered by appointment only. For information please call the Essex CAC at 978-745-6610 Ext. 5173. For medical appointments and questions please call the PediSANE Nurse at 978-984-7535.