Advocates strengthen help for child abuse victims
Community leaders reinforced their commitment to protect children and hold those who harm them accountable during a signing of the 2014 Pierce County Child Abuse Investigation Protocol today.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist, and representatives from multiple social, medical and law enforcement agencies attended the ceremony, at the Children’s Advocacy Center at MultiCare Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Center in Tacoma.
“Kids are such a vulnerable part of our community, and my keynote really can be summarized in just two words— and that is, thank you,” Ferguson said. “It’s emotionally difficult, draining work. It just is. The facts of the cases and the stories behind each of those kids are invariably heartbreaking.”
Established in 1999, the county-wide protocol outlines how agencies must collaborate and cooperate to enhance safety, investigate and prosecute perpetrators, and reduce victim trauma. State law requires the 89 signatories to revise the protocol every two years and recommit to its objectives.
Department of Children and Family Services Regional Administrator Joel Odimba said all systems must maintain child protection as a top priority.
“Today is a great day for our children and their families, those children who cannot protect themselves and who, without us working together, may not actualize their dreams and life potentials,” Odimba said. “Child protection is our collective responsibility—every agency here, every community, every household, every person. This is our work.”
Mary Quinlan, director of MultiCare Mary Bridge Community Services and the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) of Pierce County, explained the history of the national CAC model.
“CACs were born from an idea that the prosecution system was really developed for adults,” Quinlan said. “A movement started in Alabama to create centers that were more child-friendly, that were psychologically safe environments for children, and places where they were not re-traumatized by the system of investigation itself. We’re proud to be a part of that movement.”
She said studies showed that the CAC method of co-locating services had led to more successful prosecution rates.
MultiCare President and CEO Bill Robertson also addressed the event and thanked participants for their work.
“The South Sound is a wonderful place and this program is truly one of the gems of our community,” Robertson said. “You’ll find that I am absolutely committed to making sure that we continue to be a great partner in this effort.”
He said the Pierce County CAC had served more than 1,200 children in 2013.
“It’s wonderful that we were able to do that, and it’s very sad that we had to do that,” Robertson said.
MultiCare Mary Bridge Community Services Director Mary Quinlan
welcomes attendees at the 2014 protocol signing.