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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PR- 252-09
June 3, 2009

MAYOR BLOOMBERG OPENS CHILD ADVOCACY CENTER IN HARLEM

Brings Medical, Legal, Law Enforcement and Social Services Under One Roof to Help Physically and Sexually Abused Children

Center Run by Safe Horizon, a Leading Non-Profit With Over 30 Years of Experience

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today opened the Manhattan Child Advocacy Center in Harlem. The Child Advocacy Center convenes under one roof a multi-disciplinary team of medical, legal, law enforcement and social service experts for children who are suspected of having been sexually or physically abused. The facility, a permanent and child-friendly location, allows experts to work together with children in one place, instead of conducting a series of potentially traumatizing repeat interviews at police precincts, hospitals, district attorney’s offices, and children’s services offices. The Mayor was joined at the announcement by Criminal Justice Coordinator John Feinblatt; Safe Horizon Chief Executive Officer Ariel Zwang; Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner John Mattingly; First Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Leroy Frazer and Police Department Deputy Chief Kathy Ryan. With today’s opening, there are now fully co-located Child Advocacy Centers in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, and a newly opened facility on Staten Island.

“Child abuse is a crime against the innocent and defenseless that leaves its young victims emotionally and physically scarred, and it is a crime that we in government have an especially strong obligation to prevent and punish,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The new Child Advocacy Center will help build stronger investigations, but more importantly, it will make it much easier for young victims who are referred here to get the care and support they need.” 

“New York City’s child advocacy centers are models for the nation,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs. “Most important, by collaborating and providing a cooperative and coordinated approach to the investigation of child abuse cases, we can significantly reduce further trauma for vulnerable children.”

“When it comes to our kids, we owe them our best,” said Criminal Justice Coordinator Feinblatt. “Child Advocacy Centers are state-of-the-art places for providing the best care – which often means making the strongest case in court.”

To help make children more comfortable, the Child Advocacy Center’s rooms are filled with toys, dolls, books and puzzles. Using closed-circuit audio and visual equipment, the interview rooms allow all members of the interdisciplinary team to unobtrusively observe and participate in interviews with victims.

The Child Advocacy Center primarily serves children 7 to 12 years of age and the family members of victims. The Center anticipates serving 1,000 New York City children a year who have been severely physically and sexually abused.

“This partnership with Safe Horizon and City agencies only strengthens the NYPD’s hand in combating crimes against children, while establishing the most supportive atmosphere possible for its victims,” said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.

“At Children’s Services, we consider it good case practice and in the best interest of the child to use the services available at co-located Child Advocacy Centers like the newest one here in Harlem,” said ACS Commissioner John Mattingly. “With today’s opening and the beginning of operations on Staten Island, we now have co-located Child Advocacy Centers available in each borough except the Bronx, and we hope to have one there soon.”

“The Manhattan Child Advocacy Center brings together experts from every discipline to help children who have suffered the most severe abuse,” said Safe Horizon Chief Executive Officer Ariel Zwang.  “Safe Horizon is proud to coordinate all of these partners – from law enforcement to child protective services – and provide so many children the compassionate counseling that will help them heal and rebuild their lives.”

“We are pleased to be in partnership at the Manhattan Child Advocacy Center with Safe Horizon, Administration of Children’s Services, Dr. Jocelyn Brown and the NYPD, enhancing the quality of child abuse investigations, prosecutions, and treatment services for the children of Manhattan and their families,” said Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau. “This wonderful facility provides a central, child-friendly, neutral location and combines all the necessary expertise from multiple disciplines to protect the most vulnerable of our City.”   

This center will be staffed by professionals from the following agencies and organizations: 

  • Safe Horizon;
  • NYPD Special Victims Squad;
  • Manhattan District Attorney’s office Family Violence and Child Abuse Bureau;
  • Administration for Children’s Services; and
  • Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center

In 2006, the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire conducted a study comparing data from over 1,000 cases involving Child Advocacy Centers to communities without them. The study’s findings included:

  • Child Advocacy Centers were three times more likely to make a referral for mental health services.
  • Children served by a Child Advocacy Center were twice as likely to receive a medical exam.
  • Non-offending caregivers from the Child Advocacy Center sample described greater levels of satisfaction with the investigation; and  
  • Child Advocacy Center’s with greater involvement from law enforcement were more likely to show an impact on criminal justice outcomes. 

Over the past three years, ACS has enacted a series of wide-ranging safety reforms to strengthen frontline child abuse and neglect investigations and enhance all aspects of the Agency’s child protective system. The reforms have included lowering caseloads for child protective specialists to an average of 12 or below Citywide, down from 21 on average in April 2006. Other reforms include creating the ChildStat performance monitoring system, which has reviewed hundreds of open cases and thousands of data elements involving child protective practice; hiring former NYPD detectives as Investigative Consultants to advise the frontline caseworkers on investigations; strengthening practice at foster care and preventive agencies to keep children safe through increased monitoring by Children’s Services staff, and immediately acting on performance trends or issues and substantially increasing spending on preventive services; creating a new Leadership Academy for child protective managers and administrators; and running a Citywide recruitment campaign for caseworkers, allowing ACS to increase the pool of applicants to yield the strongest candidates.

An additional aspect of enhanced child safety efforts has been the collaboration among City agencies as a result of the Mayor’s Interagency Task Force on Child Welfare and Safety under Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs. Since the Task Force’s inception in January 2006, there have been substantial interagency reforms that have enhanced the City’s ability to protect its children – through collaboration among teachers, police, child protection workers, caregivers and all relevant City agencies.







MEDIA CONTACT:


Stu Loeser / Jason Post   (212) 788-2958

Sharman Stein/Sheila Stainback (ACS)   (212) 341-0999

Onika Abraham (Safe Horizon)   (646) 341-3125




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