Tackling Trauma with Teamwork

Posted on June 16, 2022

At the Children’s Home Child Advocacy Center (CAC), every child we see has suffered trauma.

Alyssa’s story was no exception. An elementary-school-aged child, she told her mother that a relative had sexually abused her. Her mom believed her (which isn’t always the case) and contacted police.

When we met Alyssa, she and her mother were anxious and afraid. For her mother, the information was new; she struggled with shock and pain. “What she told us at first was just the beginning,” says Jennifer Arnold, Child and Family Advocate. “That’s very common. Kids will give piecemeal disclosures and gauge how you respond. Sometimes they’re not ready to talk.”

Eventually, Alyssa shared that the sexual abuse had been happening for years. Her mother was devastated.

“First we make sure kids are safe, that the offender is not in the home,” Jennifer says. “We help the child and the family get the services they need to heal. The healing process supersedes everything else. No matter what prosecution looks like, the child’s experience does not go away.”

Working together to protect children

CAC is an integral part of a multi-disciplinary team that includes the SD Department of Social Services, law enforcement (state and federal), the medical community, mental health and the State’s Attorney’s office.

In Alyssa’s case, the investigation revealed that Alyssa’s offender had multiple victims.

Because of Alyssa’s strength and bravery, these additional victims had the opportunity to receive early intervention and to someday have safe and healthy adult relationships.

“We have seen this young girl flourish since her first visit,” says Jennifer.

“The last time she was in, she was bubbly, standing up straight and interacting with a sense of ease. It was quite the change!”

“This family touched us so much that CAC and CHS Community Based staff in the Black Hills skipped our usual holiday gift exchange and pooled our money to help Alyssa and
her family have an extra special Christmas.”

“I will never forget the call from Alyssa’s mom when she received the package. She said, ‘You all made our Christmas magical. I will never be able to thank you guys enough
for everything.’”

“Working together, they’ve blessed us, and we’ve blessed them,” Jennifer says. “A little kindness goes a long way.”