The first was a two-day seminar on Physical Child Abuse Reconstruction Techniques. Day one, which was facilitated by Robert Hugh Farley, a highly decorated Chicago Police Detective, former Deputy United States Marshal, and most recently an International Child Exploitation Consultant for INTERPOL, focused on non-accidental injuries inflicted on children and emphasized specific techniques that investigators may use in the assessment, and reconstruction of cases involving injuries such as bruises, lacerations and burns.
Day two, facilitated by CAC Executive Director Karrie Damm and CAC Senior Mental Health Counselor Stacy Austin-Root, addressed the typology of sexual offenders and child fatality investigation techniques. The two provided an overview of sexual fetishes and grooming behaviors that are often used to perpetrate sexual crimes against children. They also discussed the child's psychological accommodation of the crime and proper techniques for interviewing suspects. Dr. Robert Stoppacher, Onondaga County Medical Examiner, lead the afternoon training session on child fatality investigations.
In addition to Oswego County professionals the two-day seminar was made available to those in the neighboring counties of Lewis, Onondaga, Jefferson, and Cayuga.
The second seminar, offered to Oswego County professionals only, focused on advanced forensic training and featured a nationally renowned trainer from the National Children's Advocacy Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Linda Cordisco Steele, M.Ed., LPC. Ms. Cordisco Steele specializes in teaching how to conduct legally sound interviews that maximize the quantity and quality of forensically relevant information regarding alleged incidents of child abuse.
According to Damm the seminar was well received and those attending were grateful for the opportunity. "For us to be able to make this level of training available in Oswego County is quite an accomplishment. Prior to this seminar we had three investigators with advanced certified forensic training. Thanks to the grant we received from the Shineman Foundation we now have 26! This will have a tremendous impact on the fight against child abuse in Oswego County."
One training attendee commented on the opportunity to attend the seminars. "It's rare to be able to participate in this level of specialty training. These seminars provided us with the opportunity to gain advanced knowledge regarding child physical and sexual abuse cases in all facets pertaining to each case," said the attendee.
Damm said that the seminars would prove essential to the CAC's mission of providing the best possible treatment for children of abuse and their families. "They have greatly enhanced the expertise in our county and puts the CAC/Multi Disciplinary Team on the map as being one of the most highly trained in the country," said Damm.
As for future prosecution and investigation of child abuse cases the attendee added that the training the seminars provided will have a positive impact. "It increases the opportunity for the investigators involved to contribute to the best possible outcomes and successful prosecution while attempting to lower the potential trauma for the victims and their families," she said.
The seminars served as the first step in the Child Advocacy Center's "Be The End" campaign. The agency is joining with CAC's across the United States in a campaign aimed at ending child abuse in three generations. Following a strategy devised by Victor Vieth, founder and senior director of the Gundersen National Child Protection training Center in Winona, MN, Damm said that the Be The End campaign is the beginning of the CAC's plan to assist the community in eliminating child abuse in Oswego County in three generations.
"Mr. Vieth has defined a step-by-step process, broken down by decades, regarding what needs to be done if we really choose to end child abuse. We have come a long way in the past five years and continue to advance our services, treatment, and outcomes but I want to help end it! Oswego County has the highest percentage of children that were alleged to be victims of abuse and maltreatment in New York State. Our indication rate, which represents how many of those allegations are true, is higher than the state and national average, and our recurrent rate is also well above the state and national average," said Damm.
While Damm acknowledged that those numbers do reflect the efforts to engage community members and encourage them to report instances of child abuse and seek treatment for those children and their families, she added that these statistics cannot be tolerated.
"We need to do whatever it takes to end child abuse in Oswego County but it cannot happen overnight, we need to be in it for the long run. Our "Be the End" campaign educates us on what we can do one decade at a time and it needs to be done in a way that sustains those beyond us. It's not just eradicating child abuse in families; it's about preparing our legal system, schools, neighbors, and businesses to combat child abuse in every arena. We need mandated services to ensure that families receive the treatment they need and the support of our legal system to send a clear message that child abuse will not be tolerated. These training seminars will prove to play an important role in helping us do what we can during our decades of work," added Damm.
Located at 301 Beech Street in Fulton, the CAC is a non-profit organization that works hand-in-hand with local law enforcement, prosecution, child protective services, medical providers, mental health providers, and victim advocacy professionals in Oswego County to protect and serve child victims of sexual and physical abuse. In 2014 the CAC served more than 425 children and families in Oswego County.