Talbot Community Connections supports the Talbot County Children’s Advocacy Center (TCCAC) to provide a comprehensive multidisciplinary response to incidents of child abuse in Talbot County.
Led by the Talbot County Department of Social Services, in partnership with the University of Maryland Shore Health, the Center provides a comfortable, private, child-friendly setting that is both physically and psychologically safe for diverse populations of children and their families. TCCAC ensures “best practice” standards of service and is accredited by the National Children’s Alliance.
Prior to the opening of Talbot County Children’s Advocacy Center in 2003, victimized children often had to tell their stories of abuse over and over again to doctors, law enforcement, lawyers, therapists, investigators, judges, and others. Children had to talk about the traumatic experience in a police station where they may have thought they were in trouble. Often, child victims were asked the wrong questions by a well-meaning teacher or another adult, which may have jeopardized legal aspects of the case against the abuser. In addition, since many services necessary to support child sexual abuse victims were not available in the Mid-Shore region, families had to travel to receive some services.
Since the establishment of our Children’s Advocacy Center in 2003, when a child is suspected of being abused, the child is brought by a “safe adult” to the Talbot County Children’s Advocacy Center; a safe, child-focused, trauma-informed environment. At the CAC, the child tells their story only once to a trained interviewer who knows the right questions to ask in a way that is child friendly and legally sound. Then, a multidisciplinary team that includes medical professionals, law enforcement, a prosecutor, a mental health consultant, child protective services, and a victim and family advocate make decisions together about how to help the child based on the interview. This multidisciplinary team (MDT) response is the core part of the work that our CAC provides.
A coordinated MDT approach facilitates efficient interagency communication and information sharing, ongoing involvement of key individuals, and support for children and families. Each agency gains the benefit of a broadened knowledge base from which decisions are made, thorough and shared information, and improved and timely evidence gathering. Involvement of the prosecutor from the beginning stages of the case may also contribute to a more successful criminal justice outcome. MDT interventions in a neutral, child-focused CAC setting are associated with less anxiety, fewer interviews, and more appropriate and timely referrals for needed services. An MDT response fosters needed education, support, and treatment for children and families that may enhance their willingness to participate in the criminal justice system as effective witnesses. In addition, parents and other caregivers are empowered to protect and support their children throughout the investigation, prosecution, and beyond.
MDT partners are committed to ensuring child safety, reducing potential risks, and addressing trauma to child victims. They are routinely engaged in educational opportunities to expand professional and community awareness and improve services to child victims and their families.
With financial support from Talbot Community Connections, Inc., funds supported art, music, equine therapy, self-defense classes and journaling activities through the Children’s Advocacy Center to enhance the therapy outcomes for victims of child sexual abuse. One of the participants reflecting on the use of art and poetry in a group setting shared that the therapy "allowed me to understand how far I have come and how I have moved away from the pain into the light. I am no longer alone but can express myself and my thoughts and feelings with others who understand and accept me for who I am." The girls who participated were able to share their message of hope and healing with the newer girls in group through the use of art and poetry – a clear, non-threatening way to communicate their thoughts and emotions and to offer hope for a bright future.
Story: Meet Anna, a young teen survivor of sexual abuse who received treatment at the Children’s Advocacy Center. She, along with other survivors participated in an outdoor challenge course that included a zip line and climbing wall last April. In her words, “Thank you for the experience that showed us not be scared anymore”. Another survivor shared “This fun challenge course allowed me to come out of my comfort zone; I would love to come back.”