Counselors tour abuse facilities

Reprinted with permission by the Tulsa World
Tulsa World (Final Home Edition), Page A11 of News

Jay Cooper, World Staff Writer

The walk-through teaches school workers what happens with a child after abuse is reported.

The Child Abuse Network invited Tulsa area school counselors to its facility Friday so they could learn what happens to a child after abuse is reported to the agency.

Counselors were invited in hopes that a walk-through of the process would alleviate any fears or questions they might have about reporting abuse in the future.

When she was a principal, current Sand Springs Assistant Superintendent Karen Rose said she used to worry about a child after she would report a case of potential abuse.

“You never really knew what happened to the child after you reported it,” Rose said.

Rose took Sand Springs counselors to the Child Abuse Network facility last year, and was a big proponent of getting more Tulsa County school counselors on board this year.

“They see the services, and their comfort level is much improved,” Rose said.

School counselors heard from a phone supervisor for the Department of Human Services, a forensic interview specialist, a clinician who evaluates abused children and an assistant district attorney to learn the whole process, from reporting to prosecuting against abuse.

All of those agencies and professionals work together at the Child Abuse Network to make the investigation process easier on a child who has been abused.

Working side by side keeps children from having to relive the trauma of abuse by answering the same questions over and over, officials said.

The Child Abuse Network wanted school counselors on board because they are around children and are often the first people to spot signs of child abuse, said Jaime Vogt, a forensic interview specialist who helped coordinate Friday’s tour.

“We need the schools to work with us; you’re the eyes and ears,” Vogt told counselors. “You see the kids daily.”

The Child Abuse Network also hoped to give pointers to counselors on how to talk to children about abuse, and what details they need to report when they call DHS.

While school counselors have the best intentions, they have sometimes hurt a child-abuse case by the way they reported the abuse or what they said to the child or family, Vogt said.

“We’ve had enough instances where we know well-meaning people have had a negative impact on the investigation,” Vogt said. “We need to make sure schools are aware of how an investigation is conducted so they can work with us, not against us.”

When reporting abuse, school counselors should have the child’s current address and information regarding any siblings who also live in the house.

Counselors should also find out where the child goes after school and whether the suspected abuser is in the home.

When possible, counselors should also verify any bruises or marks suffered by a child, Vogt said.

Child abuse can be reported by calling the child abuse hot line at 584-1222.

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