Juneau children's center gets national accreditation

Organization helps kids and adults deal with sexual, physical abuse

Posted: Friday, September 07, 2007

After six years of service, the Juneau Child Advocacy Center became nationally accredited earlier this summer.

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The center works with all types of abused children, who are referred to the organization through local doctors, law enforcement and the state Office of Children's Services.

Program Director Michelle Monts said the center is culturally sensitive and child-centric. There, children and non-offending parents are interviewed and receive the services needed to deal with cases of sexual and physical abuse.

She said the organization sticks with children throughout the process from the initial interview through prosecution and beyond, if needed.

"We don't just conduct the forensic interview and pass them on to prosecution," Monts said. "We keep them connected to services so families don't fall apart."

Along with a medical exam room, forensic interview room and a kitchen, the center hosts a team of health-care and legal professionals whose job is to listen to the child and see if there is a problem.

"A good team listens," said Sally Caldwell, mental health care provider on the team.

Though many on the team work in the local justice system, none on the team would say that putting abusers in jail supersedes the care and continued heath of the children they work with.

The accreditation comes from the National Children's Alliance.

"It shows we meet established standards and use best practices for investigations," Monts said.

The center also receives national assistance, access to a larger pool of resources and access to small financial grants.

One of the additional goals of the center is to educate Juneau and Southeast communities about the prevalence of abuse.

Alaska has six times the national average of reported child sexual assault, Rep. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, said in a committee meeting during the last legislative session. He said the statistics are based only on what is reported.

Dr. George Brown, a pediatrician on the team, said one of the most important things the center can work on is prevention of child sexual abuse. But first, Juneau and the Southeast has to admit the issue is a problem.

"The biggest obstacle is denial," Brown said.

• Contact Greg Skinner at 523-2558 or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.

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