“How are the children?”
A question we ask ourselves and a guiding principle of projects and priorities in our work.
We are the Granite State Children’s Alliance, the chapter organization for New Hampshire’s Network of Child Advocacy Centers (CACs). A CAC is a lot of things. It started as a very special place to conduct forensic interviews for young victims of crime, an interview based on science and research that seeks to find the truth when a child is believed to have experienced trauma. Ten years ago, CACs in NH conducted that interview and assisted in coordinating a multidisciplinary team response. Once the interview was over and the caregivers and families had information about the next steps, CACs moved on to the next intake. The next child. The next interview. We did the best we could with the resources available at the time.
Fast forward to the present, and with significant investment from key stakeholders and an eye toward prevention, CACs have grown to be more than a special interview space. We have been able to increase and diversify our staffing to meet the needs of the communities we serve, to include family support specialists and mental health clinicians. These positions are essential in providing a more holistic approach to intervention and prioritizes healing.
Our Chief Executive Officer, Joy Barrett likes to say, “kids grow up and we want to help create healthy adults.” In short, we would like to one day put ourselves out of business.
All childhood experiences matter – not just the negative ones.
When children do experience trauma, responding with love, support, and attention can help ease their pain. Granite State Children’s Alliance seeks to take a stressful and scary situation and make it a healing one.
In conjunction with our direct service program at CACs, we have created a professional development program to educate NH communities about mandated reporting of child abuse. Our KNOW & TELL® program was born at a kitchen table in 2015, and eight years later has trained over 14,000 people to KNOW the signs of child abuse and TELL responsible authorities when a child needs help. And it is expanding to meet continued and increasing demand.
In addition to the universal KNOW & TELL® training program, we now have a KNOW & TELL® program tailored specifically for health care providers, bringing full circle the intent of the original mandated reporter laws. Before there were child protection laws, physicians and advocates worked together in the 1960s to use animal abuse legislation as a model to protect children from abuse. Doctors fully understood their unique and critical position as a witness and protector of children. An advisory group to create a KNOW & TELL® for First Responders, another unique and critical position for the community and for children at risk, is in development now. Our KNOW & TELL® Peer-to-Peer program is partnering with schools, working directly with older teens and college-aged students to empower them to educate and inform their peer groups about child abuse – prevention at its finest.
We know that caring adults in communities around the state are the intervention a child needs to begin the healing process. That is why we have invested in supports at the CACs and in expanding our KNOW & TELL® program. With staffing now focused on supporting children and their families beyond the initial forensic interview, providing resources and specialized care, we can ensure a path toward healing and thriving. We all have a role to play in preventing child abuse.
Our goal when we fast forward five more years to 2028 is that we have a fully staffed behavioral health program with fully licensed clinicians across NH CACs, as well as robust KNOW & TELL® programs to continually educate adults in a variety of disciplines about the importance of intervening when a child needs help. We aren’t sure when we go “out of business,” but we know if we all work together, one day it will be possible.
Megan Oliviero is the Director of Education and Outreach at Granite State Children’s Alliance. Megan has been a child advocate and committed to Child Advocacy Centers for 22 years. The majority of her career was spent in sexual assault crisis centers as a child abuse specialist; providing support services to children and families after a disclosure of sexual abuse as well as providing primary prevention programs in schools. She served on the Board of Directors for the Granite State Children’s Alliance before becoming the Director of Education & Outreach in the spring of 2015. Her primary responsibilities include outreach and education efforts for the Chapter and more specifically professional development opportunities for the CAC workforce in NH.