Advocacy Centers – what are they?

child-abuse-quotes-215Sue Ann comes into her third grade class with her head down.  (Sign #1)  She usually pops in with a friend on each arm, waving to her teacher, Mrs. Adams.   Mrs. Adams curiously notes that Sue Ann is wearing a long sleeve dress and a dirty hemline brushes the floor. (Sign #2)  It  is almost time for school to be out for the summer, and the temperature is in the high 80’s.  Sue Ann goes immediately to her desk and starts hunting for something.

Mrs. Adams greets several more children, and then casually walks over to Sue Ann’s desk and initiates a conversation, “You look lovely this morning, Sue Ann.  Your long dress is different from the shorts that you usually wear.”

The 8-year-old answers, “My new Daddy said I have to wear it because I forgot my pencil to do my homework.”  Tears form in her eyes.  She goes on to explain, “My new Daddy got really mad.”

Now Mrs. Adams is slightly alarmed.  She inquires, “Sometimes parents get angry with children when they are really angry about something else.  Maybe your new Daddy was having a really hard day.”

Sue Ann is now crying and answers, “Then why did he hit me?  I didn’t do anything.  Well, I did forget my pencil.”

Mrs. Adams walks Sue Ann into the hallway just outside the door so that the other children can not see or hear the next part of the conversation.”  Mrs. Adams goes to inquire.  “Sue Ann, I see that you are really upset.  Where did your new Daddy hit you?”

Sue Ann pulls her long dress up to reveal dark bruises down both of her legs.  She pulls up her sleeves, and there are burn marks on her arms.  Mrs. Adams calls the office and requests a teacher’s aide to cover her class, and Mrs. Adams walks Sue Ann up to the Principal’s office.

Mrs. Adams says, “Sue Ann, will you tell Mrs. Salter what you told me and show her what happened?”

Sue Ann has now repeated her story twice…once to her teacher, and once to the Principal.  Each time more tears fall.  She will repeat the story again to a police office, a doctor, a therapist, a case worker, and a prosecutor.  That is seven times.  Each time the story is told, Sue Ann gets to relive the experience – AND the story changes just a little bit.

Sue Ann is the reason Advocacy Centers are popping up all over the country,  The centers are filled with dedicated individuals from multiple agencies all “housed” under one roof.  The team of professionals work in close proximity.  The result is less emotional stress for the child victim of abuse, neglect, or abandonment,  more efficient information sharing, a dramatic decrease in the time it takes to investigate the case, and an increase in prosecution rates.   Children do not have to tell their story over and over again.

Sue Ann is now in fifth grade and looking forward to middle school.  Her “new Daddy” is in prison for child abuse.  Advocacy Centers (like the Escambia and Santa Rosa Kids House) are a powerful tool in combating the war against child maltreatment in our own communities.

To report suspected abuse, neglect, or abandonment in Florida, call 1-800-962-2873. The national hotline is 1-800-799-7233.


6 Comments On “Advocacy Centers – what are they?”

  1. What do you do when a child is being abused and you have reported to children services and the cop’s make a report. I keep trying have someone help with this before something bad happens to the little boy. I live in Ohio

    • Carrie,
      In response to your questions about “what do you do?”…I would continue to report. Every time you see something, call your local hotline. If they don’t seem to respond, call the national hotline (which can be found on our web site: You have to personally witness abuse or neglect to make the report legitimate. Make sure that you provide as many details as possible when making a report.

      I would like to advise you that even though you don’t see something happening, the child welfare organization in your community may be working with the family. In any case…report everything you see every time!

      I applaud your interest in the well-being of the little boy.

      For Child Guardians, Inc.

  2. what happens to parents who physically abuse their child/children?

    • Jessica,
      In response to your question about what happens to parents who physically abuse their children…There is a process in place. The case is reported (usually through a hotline or through law enforcement). The next step is to determine if the case meets the “guidelines” for abuse. The guidelines are very specific. The guidelines provides a checklist of things to consider when reviewing an allegation a case of abuse. In Florida, there are 20 categories such as burns, medical neglect, abandonment and mental injury. Other states probably have similar checklists. Depending on the type and severity of the allegations – if a child is in immediate danger, if they suffered minor or severe injuries, if the claims involve sexual abuse – abuse calls are prioritized and sent to the appropriate investigators. From there, it becomes a matter of determining if the allegations can be substantiated.

      The number one priority is to make sure the child is safe. If the case is substantiated, a report is made to law enforcement and/or the Department of Children and Families. The guidelines for punishment are set by State Statute. The consequences may range anywhere from writing a family plan for improvement, immediately removing the child from the family and/or actual criminal charges and jail time. The consequences are based on substantiation of any allegations, the type of allegation, and the severity of abuse.

  3. How do I find out suffield Connecticut child protective services to report abuse?

    • To request child protective services information for any state, you can call the toll-free National Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.

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