By Tammi Pitzen, Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County — from her speech at our October, 2017 Cherish a Child Luncheon
A wise man looked at the response in place in Jackson County for victims of child abuse and thought there was opportunity to improve this response.
That wise man was Mark Huddleston, or as we like to refer to him, Our Founding Father.
I am so thankful for his vision. His vision became the Jackson County Child Abuse Task Force.
In March 1991 the Children’s Advocacy Center was opened. The Center had two employees. The only statistic that we kept was that 229 cases were staffed by the multi-disciplinary team. In 1991 our budget was $56,000. The next year the budget increased slightly and we staffed 236 cases and there were 167 interviews completed.
In the 1993-94 fiscal year, the state of Oregon decided to get serious about how it handled child abuse cases and passed HB 5061. This bill established the Child Abuse Multidisciplinary Intervention program and provided MDT’s across the state with funding. This funding has continued and provides sustainability to services provided in our community to victims of child abuse.
That same year, the CAC of Jackson County began offering therapy on-site under a contract. In 1994 the CAC of Jackson County became one of the very first centers in the country to become an accredited member of the National Children’s Alliance. We also purchased the building that we still reside in at 816 W. Tenth Street.
Along the way we added services. We increased the number of children served. We increased the budget. Growing. Stretching. To serve the abused children in our community.
In 1997 we began doing medical exams utilizing local pediatricians. The next year we added a nurse and an interviewer to staff and hired the first office manager. At that time the position was called an administrative secretary. Some people may not know this, but that first office manager was Laura Horton, who is now our Board President.
In 1999 we entered into our first partnership with Asante Health System. They provided a full time pediatrician to provide medical evaluations to abused children.
In the years to come, we added on to our space. We even expanded across the parking lot.
Today the CAC has 15 employees. We have three full time therapists. We have two medical providers and, for the first time in a long time, our medical clinic is providing services for 40 hours a week. We have one and a half forensic interviewers. One of them is bilingual. Jennifer is the first bilingual forensic interviewer on the Jackson County MDT.
We have a Family Support Team that provides support and advocacy services to abused children and their non-offending caregivers in Jackson County. There are 5 members of this team. Four employed by the CAC, and one is part of a special project with Community Works.
We have an outreach team made up of a development director, an outreach coordinator and two contractors working on prevention and community education.
We have an executive director and an office manager.
We have a board made up of 18 extraordinary community members and an advisory council made up of ten very wise advisors.
Stay tuned. We need to grow a little more to meet the increasing needs of the abused children we serve.
Our theme this year is “Planting a Seed”. I decided to do some research using my top advisor, Google. Here is what I learned:
- Plants cannot grow strong without proper care.
- Plants can’t take care of themselves.
- Some plants are thorny and seem to lash out at anyone who comes near, but these same plants grow into some of the prettiest, sturdiest, and sweetest smelling flowers.
- Plants cannot find their own water or their own light or their own environment in which to grow.
- If you want tulips in the spring, you have to get your hands dirty in the fall.
- Sometimes you need to clear weeds away so that the plant can thrive.
With those concepts in mind, let’s think about abused children and how this theme might fit:
- A child cannot grow strong without proper care.
- A child can’t take care of themselves without some help.
- Sometimes the child who needs the most love asks for it in the most unlovable ways…but just like that thorny plant…if we nurture and care for that child and give that child love, he can grow into this amazing functioning adult.
- Sometimes you need to clear the hurts away so a child can thrive.
In last year we served 695 children and 414 non-offending caregivers with nearly 5,000 services. Amazing. 1,109 seeds planted.
We are here because of support from the community. We are here because there are people who want to help abused children recover from their trauma.
I will be honest. It has been a hard month for children in Jackson County. There are many seeds that need to be sowed. Many hurts that need to be cleared away.
I am so thankful that our staff and our MDT–our partners here–are able to show incredible strength and love for the tender souls of the children suffering from trauma from abuse.
Child Abuse happens. It happens here. It happens way too frequently. When I am still…when it is quiet…and I am alone with my thoughts…I am thankful, not discouraged. I am thankful that I live my life in a community where children are priority.
I am thankful that I live my life surrounded by “farmers” planting seeds of hope for the future.
Child Abuse is a community problem and requires a community response.
My promise to you—as a community partner, a MDT member, a staff member, a CAC volunteer— is that every single day I will meet you in the garden. Ready to get my hands dirty. Ready to clear away the hurts.
If you would like to make a donation to Cherish a Child and support the CAC’s work of healing and preventing child abuse, please make a donation of any amount below.