Experts call for child advocacy center

January 21, 2002|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

Those in the Imperial Valley whose job it is to deal with child abuse say it is time for the county to have a child advocacy center where all services for such youths could be provided.

The center would serve as a one-stop resource for abused young people, providing a comfortable place for authorities to interview children and to make sure their needs are met.

During a presentation Friday that brought together educators, law enforcement officials and social services workers, authorities spoke of the need for such a center.

"The passion of everyone involved is to get an advocacy center," said Deborah Owen, a deputy district attorney.

"The need has been there for a long time," she said. "The stumbling block is money."

A child advocacy center, which would be designed to be comforting for children, would bring together law enforcement, child protective services, medical and clinical health services to meet the needs of children who have been crime victims. The center would be designed to create a unified effort toward prosecuting those who have abused children.


Officials said they are pushing forward with their effort to bring such a facility to fruition.

Authorities said Yuma has such a center and that facility could provide a model for Imperial County.

"Seeing Yuma got us to think it is possible," Owen said.

She added there are talks of seeking to use the Yuma center for Imperial County cases that occur in the Winterhaven area, which is adjacent to Yuma.

Those working on bringing a center to Imperial County include the DA's Office, law enforcement, Child Protective Services and the county victim/witness program.

Mike Johnson, an investigator with the city of Plano, Texas Police Department, spoke to local authorities Friday about handling cases where children have been abused.

He told authorities they have to work together to prosecute abuse cases. That means all those involved with a child, from teachers to the prosecutor handling the case, have to form a unified front.

He touted the idea of a center, stating such facilities can be particularly beneficial in rural areas where there are small police departments that may lack resources to handle child abuse cases on their own.

"No one can benefit more from a child advocacy center than you," Johnson told those gathered at the Eagles Lodge in El Centro.

He added, "I'm just planting a seed."

Authorities say there is a unified effort to provide services to abused youths here. Owen said there is a multi-disciplinary team that comes together to deal with child abuse cases.

In addition, Imperial County has received a $35,000 grant to fund an administrative position to coordinate the efforts of those involved in providing services to abused youths.

The administrator's job is to bring together the team when a case occurs and to make sure the team is working together to meet the child's need and provide the unified front toward the prosecution of such cases.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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