New child advocacy center opens in Harrison

January 29, 2015

01-30-15 Child Advocacy Center

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

Often times the young victims of child abuse are subject to multiple interviews about the horrors they might have suffered, having to describe what they have been through over and over to officials involved in the investigation from different agencies.

The Child Advocacy Center changes that experience, bringing the agencies all together for the single interview of an abuse victim.

Officials from all over Clare County met at Clare’s Public Safety Building last Friday to sign a Multi-Disciplinary Team agreement, coinciding with the opening of Clare County’s new Child Advocacy Center in Harrison.

Participating in the ceremonial signing were Forensic Interview Specialist and Program Director Bethany Law of the Northern Michigan Mobile Child Advocacy Center, Mt Pleasant Michigan State Police Post Commander Josh Lator, Clare Police Chief Brian Gregory, Clare Schools Liaison Officer Brian David, Clare County Undersheriff Dwayne Miedzianowski, Clare County Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis, Department of Human Services Supervisor Betsy Ulicki, Community Mental Health Program Director Craig Derron and Northern Michigan Mobile Children’s Advocacy Center Executive Director Karen Adams.

 Signing a new Multidisciplinary Team agreement for the new Harrison Child Advocacy Center are (from left) Forensic Interview Specialist and Program Director Bethany Law of the Northern Michigan Mobile Child Advocacy Center, Mt Pleasant Michigan State Police Post Commander Josh Lator, Clare Police Chief Brian Gregory, Clare Schools Liaison Officer Brian David, Clare County Undersheriff Dwayne Miedzianowski, Clare County Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis, Department of Human Services Supervisor Betsy Ulicki, Community Mental Health Program Director Craig Derron and Northern Michigan Mobile Children’s Advocacy Center Executive Director Karen Adams.


Signing a new Multidisciplinary Team agreement for the new Harrison Child Advocacy Center are (from left) Forensic Interview Specialist and Program Director Bethany Law of the Northern Michigan Mobile Child Advocacy Center, Mt Pleasant Michigan State Police Post Commander Josh Lator, Clare Police Chief Brian Gregory, Clare Schools Liaison Officer Brian David, Clare County Undersheriff Dwayne Miedzianowski, Clare County Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis, Department of Human Services Supervisor Betsy Ulicki, Community Mental Health Program Director Craig Derron and Northern Michigan Mobile Children’s Advocacy Center Executive Director Karen Adams.

Law spoke briefly saying professionals attend a two to three day school on the techniques of interviewing without leading. She also introduced Tom Knapp, Coordinator of the Michigan Chapter of the National Children’s Alliance. Knapp spoke about how the interview techniques have improved in the last 40 years, telling about the heartbreaking experiences of abused youngsters. He confessed that he was one of those children once living with abusive parents without getting the recognition, or help he needed. “What better calling than to protect those who need our protection so much,” he said. “The CAC is a multidisciplinary team and the community coming together as a team to give the best possible help we can.”

Also speaking briefly were State Representative Joel Johnson and Senator Judy Emmons, both on the merits of the Child Advocacy Center and multidisciplinary team. Johnson said “This is six crucial organizations involved in one interview instead of interviewing a victim multiple times.”

In summation, Law said, “We are here to celebrate the joining of many different agencies. It’s about the team.”

Multi-Disciplinary Teams consist of trained professionals from law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, mental health services, medical professionals, victim advocacy services, and from a children’s advocacy center to conduct forensic interviews when there are concerns of possible abuse or when a child has witnessed violence against another person. Those professionals are trained in the State of Michigan Forensic Interview Protocol and remotely observed by representatives of the multidisciplinary teams agencies involved in the investigation.

Those teams are brought together with victims at a Child Advocacy Center. CACs are child-focused centers that coordinate the investigation prosecution and treatment of child abuse while helping abused children heal.

CACs coordinate the investigation and intervention process by bringing together professionals and agencies as a multidisciplinary team to create a child-focused approach to child abuse cases. The location is designed to create a sense of safety and security for children.

Clare County Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis said, “I have wanted to establish a multi-disciplinary team (MDT) and Child Advocacy Center (CAC) in Clare County for quite some time.  I recognized the need for a child friendly place where children could be interviewed and the need for all of the service providers (i.e. law enforcement, DHS, medical, and counseling services) to work collaboratively.  There were many times where I found out, sometimes too late, than another agency had information about a case that would have been beneficial to have during the prosecution.    So, I started the ball rolling and everyone else quickly jumped in to help make it a reality – without their participation and help we wouldn’t be where we are today because it really does take a team to make this a success.”

She continued, “I met Bethany, [Bethany Law, Forensic Interview Specialist and Program Director] of the CAC, at an Annual CAC/MDT Conference in Traverse City about two years ago.  We talked about what I had hoped to accomplish in Clare County and exchanged numbers.  A couple months later I met with her and Karen [Karen Adams, Executive Director of the Northern Michigan Mobile CAC] about their idea for a mobile advocacy center and the need for a stable office space from which to run the business – it worked out that not only could we get them into a building here in Harrison for their offices but that we could also have our own center.  They now service both Clare and Gladwin counties at the CAC, but children from other counties may come here to be interviewed as well.”

The CAC is located in the red brick building directly east of the post office on Oak Street in Harrison.

Ambrozaitis said, “As the center grows they plan to add the mobile component and outfit an RV to be a mobile child advocacy center so that they can travel to northern counties that do not have child advocacy centers.  This will allow for the services to come to the child rather than the child having to travel long distances to be interviewed in an advocacy center.”

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