HOPE investigates 500-600 suspected child abuse cases
by DELANEY WALKER Banner Staff Writer
Jul 04, 2014 | 1423 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HOPE CHILD ADVOCACY CENTER speakers VISTA Brandi Keen and executive director Teresa Grant addressed the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland at Thursday’s luncheon. From left are Kiwanis President Bruce Bradford, Keen, Grant and July program chairperson Jaynese Waddell. Banner photo, DELANEY WALKER
HOPE CHILD ADVOCACY CENTER speakers VISTA Brandi Keen and executive director Teresa Grant addressed the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland at Thursday’s luncheon. From left are Kiwanis President Bruce Bradford, Keen, Grant and July program chairperson Jaynese Waddell. Banner photo, DELANEY WALKER
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Approximately 23 percent of the yearly child abuse cases investigated by the HOPE Child Advocacy Center are substantiated.

Executive Director Teresa Grant told the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland Thursday afternoon the organization handles 500 to 600 cases each year from Monroe, McMinn, Polk and Bradley counties. The Cleveland office established in 2010 handles about 250 of the yearly cases. She said the numbers for sexual abuse and other types of physical abuse of children are consistently steady.

VISTA Brandi Keen provided a rundown for the Kiwanians.

She explained the center is a part of a multidisciplinary team comprised of law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Children Services.

A standard procedure is applied to every case to determine the particulars of each child’s story. The organization first receives a report and has the nonoffending caregiver bring the child in for an appointment. The child is encouraged during the forensic interview to provide an accurate account of the alleged abuse. The family advocate speaks with the nonoffending caregiver while the child is in the interview. The team then determines the best plan of action.

Added Keen, “The amount of time and hard work I have seen go into every case is unimaginable and humbling.”

Grant confirmed most cases seen by the HOPE Center are sexual in nature. The organization created several programs to educate and lower the amount of such cases. Keen explained the goal of HOPE is to “tackle sexual abuse through garnering a societal change” and through the creation of a mindset of community responsibility to protect children.

According to a pamphlet provided by the HOPE Center, sexual abuse can be physical, verbal or emotional. Instances can include fondling, exposing children to adult sexual activity, spying on a child in a bathroom or bedroom or attempted rape. Sexual abuse often includes underhanded techniques, including tricking, forcing, bribing, threatening or pressuring a child.

The Darkness to Light program equips adults working youth-focused areas with steps needed to prevent, recognize and react to instances of child sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse prevention tips provided to parents from the organization include, but are not limited to often speaking with children about such dangers from a young age; being positive; listening; trusting and believing them; and telling them often how much they are loved.

Kiwanian Annette Smith introduced Criminal Court Judge Andrew Freiberg as the newest member of the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland. Smith stepped in for Freiberg’s sponsor, Bob Donaghy, who was unable to make Thursday’s meeting.

“It is really just an honor to be a part of this group,” Freiberg said. “I look forward to seeing you in the future.”

Club president Bruce Bradford welcomed Freiberg to the club and read the six Kiwanis objectives.

- To give primacy to the human and spiritual, rather than the material, values of life.

- To encourage the daily living of the Golden Rule in all human relationships.

- To promote the adoption and the application of higher social, business and professional standards.

- To develop, by precept and example, a more intelligent, aggressive and serviceable citizenship.

- To provide, through Kiwanis clubs, a practical means to form enduring friendships, to render altruistic service, and to build better communities.

- To cooperate in creating and maintaining the sound public opinion and high idealism which make possible the increase of righteousness, justice, patriotism and goodwill.

Any individual who needs to report suspected child abuse can do so at Tennessee’s abuse hotline, 1-877-542-2873, or call 911.

The Kiwanis Club meets every Thursday at noon, in Mountain View Inn’s large meeting room.