Abused children, advocates need 'Bravehearts'

Posted Online: March 15, 2013, 2:30 am
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By Claudia Loucks, cjloucks@qconline.com
CAMBRIDGE -- It takes a brave heart for abused children to tell their story, and a Braveheart place to help them.

Braveheart Children's Advocacy Center opened in 1999 in Henry County, and expanded to other areas in 2002 and 2007. It now serves children in Marshall, Putnam, Stark and Bureau counties.

"The name Braveheart represents the courage it takes for children to tell, the bravery and dedication of our team, the innocence at the heart of every child and the heart of the community to speak up in partnership with us," forensic interviewer Abbey Roodhouse said.

The Braveheart team wants to help create an awareness of the tragedy of child abuse, she said. It also hopes people will help the center raise money by participating in an annual fundraiser Saturday, April 6, at the Geneseo Moose Lodge, 1025 S. State St.

The fundraiser will be held in conjunction with National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

"To promote this, we will have small 'handprint' cards at area businesses where people can pay $1 or make a donation and write their name on a card, which is then displayed to show support for our organization and the cause as well as helping us raise much-needed funds," Mrs. Roodhouse said.

Braveheart staff members also will distribute blue ribbons at the April 6 fundraiser to create awareness of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

April first was proclaimed National Child Abuse Prevention Month in 1983. Six years later, the Blue Ribbon Campaign began as a Virginia grandmother's tribute to her grandson who died as a result of abuse. She tied a blue ribbon to the antenna of her car as a way to remember him and to alert her community to the tragedy of child abuse.

Braveheart staff members are well trained in forensic interviewing, a nonsuggestive interviewing technique specific to each child's developmental level and emotional needs, Mrs. Roodhouse said.

Center personnel also provide emotional support, education and referral to other community agencies, she said.

A visiting trauma mental health provider also is available, Mrs. Roodhouse said.

Children's Advocacy Centers are a national movement with more than 700 chapters across the country, she said.

The centers' primary responsibility is to ensure that children disclosing abuse are not further victimized by the intervention systems designed to protect them, Mrs. Roodhouse said.

When a child is reported as abused, many agencies need to become involved from medical, to law enforcement, child protection, mental health, prosecution and more, she said.

"Each agency or professional has a different role in the intervention process, but many of their needs to gather information are the same," Mrs. Roodhouse said.

Before Braveheart centers were formed, victims would face multiple interviews by those multiple agencies, "which could result in re-traumatizing the victim they are seeking to assist," she said.

The advocacy centers coordinate those efforts, Mrs. Roodhouse said.

Coordinated efforts also reduce costs to the community, she said. Cases handled through Braveheart centers cost an average of $1,000 less than cases not coordinated through them, she said.

"Since opening, we have served over 1,500 children and their families," Mrs. Roodhouse said. "Our home office in Cambridge has an average of 100 cases coming from Henry County alone each year. Over 90 percent of those are sex abuse reports."

That's a cost savings of about $100,000 per year in Henry County, she said.

An ordinance that assesses a fee on criminal violations helps provide funds for Braveheart, allowing it to provide therapy for children and families who have no other ability to pay.

The number of children and families served at Braveheart has increased, Mrs. Roodhouse said.

There were 147 forensic interviews conducted in 2012, and, in the first half of fiscal year 2013, there have been 92, she said.

"If we continue at this rate, we could complete upwards of 180 forensic interviews," she said, "We continue to search for ways to cover the costs of the needs of the children and families we serve."

What: Dinner, live music, silent auction and a 50/50 raffle to raise money for Braveheart Children's Advocacy Center.
When: 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 6.
Where: Geneseo Moose Lodge, 1025 South State St.
Cost: $25 per person.
Information: Call 309-937-5663 or email jackie@braveheartcac.org.
To donate: Contributions also can be made by mailing checks, made payable to Braveheart, 414 East Center, St., Cambridge, IL 61238, or by clicking on a donate button at braveheartcac.org.


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