By Tammi Pitzen, Executive Director of The Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County

I am going to write a different kind of blog today.  I just spent an amazing two days working with about 30 other professionals across the country in DC during a strategic planning exercise.

We were working on the strategic goal of Leadership and Collaboration.  We were all conferred by the National Children’s Alliance.  We all worked in some role in the children’s advocacy center movement.

I have had the privilege of working in this movement for 14 years.  I also worked 12 years in the field of child protection outside the movement.  Here are my take aways from this amazing experience:

1). There are a lot of really smart, talented, innovated, compassionate and passionate professionals who work in this movement.  At one point, I found myself looking around the room in amazement.  There was no ego present during these two days of really intense sessions.  I wonder if there are other movements in which a room of professionals with different roles, wanting to see different outcome could put aside their own agendas so easily to work for the greater good.

2).  There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes in Washington DC in a small building that can be found at 516 C Street NE on behalf of abused children.  Some of it is smaller stuff, but most of it great big stuff!  In the last 5 to 6 years that stuff has been absolutely life saving for the abused children each of the nearly 800 centers across the country serve.

We are being recognized as a national movement in ways that did not happen before.  We actually have an organized effort on the Hill in DC.  There are media campaigns available for individual centers to use.  Our messaging is becoming more consistent.  There has been a huge effort to get evidence based practices in all of our accredited centers.

Many will read this and think, Ok big deal.  Yes it is a very big deal.  These efforts are saving the lives of the children we serve.  These efforts are keeping the issue of child abuse in front of our legislature.

We have seen what happens when we are not in front of them.  Abused children get zeroed out of the national budget.

3). Never before have we as a movement been in a place where we can do so much to change the trajectory of abused children.  We as a movement are invested in finding ways to make the intervention services we all provide be as trauma focused and efficient as possible.  We are invested in making sure the providers have the best training opportunities.  We are invested in making sure the CAC’s in our movement receive support and technical assistance at many different levels.

4). The only way we are going to be able to reach a “tipping point” as a movement fighting to address child abuse and to help heal those children who suffer from it, is if we work together collaboratively.

I once heard someone say “We all do well when WE ALL do well.”  I firmly believe that.  This group in DC working together for two full days did a lot of collaborative work.  We all checked our agendas.  We all walked away being heard—or that was my take on it.  I suppose others might see things differently but not that I heard about.  We shared ideas.  We shared perspectives.  We looked at data gathered by the National Children’s Alliance on how Centers are utilizing existing resources and where they are getting those resources.

And really the BIG take away for me was to recognize that working in the CAC movement is the best way to make an impact in the lives of abused children.

This is not to discount other organizations.  This is not to discount other methods.  But for ME, I see value in what is happening.  I see value in what is being offered through each CAC across the country to children who are abused.  I see value in coming together and sharing our resources for more efficiency.  I feel valued and feel that my work is valued by this movement.

And finally, finally, I have worked inside this movement and outside this movement protecting and advocating for abused children.  The children who receive services through a children’s advocacy center are given more opportunities to heal.  They are given more opportunities to be heard.  They are given more opportunities to find protection and safety. 

Stay tuned.  There are great things happening on behalf of abused children.

I feel so fortunate to be a part of those things.  I feel fortunate to work with all of those working on behalf of children.  I feel committed to working collaboratively with those working outside the movement on behalf of abused children.  Together we are all making a difference in the lives of abused children.