Featured LMS Foundation Grant Recipient: Children’s Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass
By Taylor Ballinger
Since 1994, the Children’s Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass has worked to reduce the trauma experienced by child victims of sexual abuse and bring hope and healing to families throughout Central Kentucky. Previous to the Center’s opening, children who reported abuse often had to navigate a difficult and confusing system of multiple, repetitive interviews and exams, which both added to their trauma and led to worse prosecutorial and treatment outcomes.
Now, the system is streamlined for the benefit of the child and to ensure they and their families receive the full spectrum of care needed. The Children’s Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass is modeled on the simple but powerful concept of coordination between community agencies and professionals involved in the intervention system which increases rates of successful prosecution and health outcomes for the children and families served.
Each year, approximately 1,000 children from across 17 Central Kentucky counties come to the Center. All services are provided on-site in a comfortable, child-friendly setting at no cost to families. There are four pillars of service provided by CACBG, all of which are geared toward the holistic healing and long-term support of the child: forensic interviews, family advocacy, therapy, and medical exams.
Forensic interviews are supportive, non-leading conversations led by highly trained interviewers and designed to elicit information about what a child has experienced. Interviews are conducted at the Center to limit the number of times a child must recount their story of abuse. All interviews are conducted in a safe, child-friendly environment. Investigators and social workers are able to observe interviews remotely at our facility, increasing collaboration among the various agencies supporting the child and family. Interviews are also recorded and saved on a secure hard drive and burned to DVD to be reviewed by law enforcement and prosecutors (as needed), further limiting the number of times a child must recount their story. Last year, the Children’s Advocacy Center provided over 900 forensic interviews.
For non-offending family members, reports of abuse can often leave them feeling scared, alone, and unsure where to turn. The Center’s family advocacy program provides thorough, compassionate support services designed to help families understand the dynamics of abuse and navigate the legal process. This includes crisis counseling, support groups, and case management. The Center employs four full-time advocates, who work with caregivers to meet every family’s unique needs.
The Children’s Advocacy Center’s therapy program utilizes trauma-focused counseling to promote emotional healing after abuse. The Center employs a full-time therapist who offers individual, group, and family therapy for abuse victims and their non-offending family members. These therapy services are critical to ensuring that the trauma of abuse ends with the abuse, helping improve the long-term health and social well-being of the child.
The Center also operates a child-friendly medical clinic on-site to evaluate children who have reported abuse. Child victims receive both a well-child check, and a thorough examination tailored to the nature of the abuse allegations to ensure that they are physically and emotionally healthy. The medical clinic is staffed by a physician and nurse who are specially trained to treat child victims of sexual assault. Children also receive a mental health screening in the medical clinic, better allowing the Center to refer them for additional services. The Center provides over 150 medical exams per year.
The Children’s Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass is a beacon of light for children and families in crisis. By supporting the Center’s work, The Lexington Medical Society helps ensure that survivors of childhood sexual abuse receive their basic mental, physical, and social health needs, and helps set them on a path of healing, hope, and opportunity.