by Sherika Brooks, Executive Assistant to the President
“Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.” -Nelson Mandela
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC ranks highest in the rate of child abuse per capita in the nation. That means that in the District alone, 24.6 children per 1,000 are victimized annually. The national average? 10.0 per 1,000. These sobering and heartbreaking statistics clearly illustrate how important it is to have services that can help the children and families who are affected by this abuse.
Enter Safe Shores-The DC Children’s Advocacy Center. Safe Shores is a Catalogue nonprofit that provides intervention, hope, and healing for children and families that are affected by abuse and violence in DC. Last week, Community Partnerships Coordinator, Marie LeBlanc, and I attended Coffee for Kids, an informational tour of the Safe Shores facility right outside of the NoMa neighborhood in Washington, DC. Situated in a former school building, Safe Shores has created an environment for kids and their families to feel supported, comfortable, and most importantly, safe.
Prior to Safe Shores, the investigative and legal process for child abuse cases in the District could be just as traumatizing for a child as the abuse itself. Forcing a child to be interviewed separately by police, social workers, medical professionals, prosecutors, and a different selection of court personnel can leave a child feeling more like the perpetrator than the victim. Safe Shores helps to eliminate these different interviews by housing interview rooms complete with in-wall cameras and microphones that produce a live feed to the room next door, as well as recording the interview. The live feed/recorded video allows for members of DC’s Multidisciplinary Team which includes the Metropolitan Police Department, Child and Family Services, Children’s National Medical Center, the Office of the Attorney General, and the United States Attorney’s Office to watch and have access to the video instead of subjecting the child to multiple interviews. Safe Shores also provides victims and their families with resources such as counseling, art therapy, medical checkups, and victim services such as a clothing closet (complete with toys) and a meal fund to cover the cost of food to children who are on site for interviews, therapy, or awaiting court sessions.
As an adult, walking into Safe Shores, touring their amazing facility, and hearing their staff talk about what they do reminded me that, unfortunately, abuse can happen to anyone. The staff members give the same amount of care to the children that walk into the center’s front doors as they would their own children–which says a lot about this amazing program and their dedicated staff (who are on call 24/7–because abuse can happen anytime). The Catalogue for Philanthropy and the Greater Washington area are lucky to have Safe Shores as part of our community and we are so grateful for all of the hard work that you do.
If you are interested in attending a Coffee for Kids session, volunteering with, or just learning more about Safe Shores-The DC Children’s Advocacy Center, check out their website.