A child advocacy center that will offer comprehensive medical, legal and social services to child victims of physical and sexual abuse is scheduled to open in June in Forest Hills, District Attorney Richard Brown announced last week.
The advocacy center, to be located in the basement and third floors of the Queens Medical Society building at 112-25 Queens Blvd., will house offices for NYPD detectives, case managers from the Administration for Children's Services, legal staff from the Queens District Attorney's Office's Special Victims Bureau and medical staff, including a full-time doctor from Schneider Children's Hospital who specializes in child abuse-related examinations.
Decorated like a day-care center with toys and colorful murals, the facility will have rooms with two-way mirrors and hidden cameras where children can be interviewed in a non-threatening atmosphere while a team of child abuse officials watches.
"Prior to a child advocacy center, children would be interviewed eight times, sometimes up to 22 times, retelling stories," said Carol Schneider, a spokeswoman for Safe Horizon, the non-profit, crime victim services organization that is overseeing the opening of the center. "With this center, everyone can watch what is going on and the child only has to tell the story once. With the medical center there, they can get instant counseling and treatment for any physical needs."
According to Schneider, there were 54,000 children reported abused in New York City last year. Of the five boroughs, Brooklyn reported the greatest number of cases, with 17,000, and Queens reported the next greatest number, with 11,625.
"The new Queens Child Advocacy Center is a much-needed and long overdue facility that will provide comprehensive care for children," said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. "The number of abuse cases we are seeing is staggering, and I am delighted that the innocent victims of abuse will have all their needs met in one central location."
Marjory Fisher, chief of the Special Victims Bureau, described the facility as a "one-stop shopping" center for victims that would increase communication and accountability among child-service case workers by allowing them to simply walk across the office to discuss a particular case rather than waste time leaving phone messages.
"Time is often a critical factor in these cases and the speed of coordination among the agencies can have a direct impact on how swiftly an arrest is made," Fisher said. "When the defendant is living in the same home as the child, his or her arrest can mean the difference between the child being removed to a foster home or being allowed to remain with his or her family."
With multiple agencies under one roof, a child's mental anguish will be reduced by not having to tell his or her story multiple times, Brown said. In addition, the likelihood of different agencies having different information of a particular case will be reduced.
The center's layout will allow for separate entrances on different floors so that victims and perpetrators can enter and leave the building without having to see each other, Brown added.
Safe Horizon opened a child advocacy center in Brooklyn in October 1996 and another center in Staten Island in October 1998. In addition to child advocacy centers, the organization also operates more than 100 other victim assistance programs throughout the city, including domestic violence shelters and telephone hotlines.
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.
©2003 Community News Group
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